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2015 Guide to Advancement out now; here are 13 of the biggest changes

2015-Guide-to-AdvancementThe 2015 Guide to Advancement, your official source for administering advancement in all Boy Scouts of America programs, is now available.

View or download it by clicking here (PDF).

The Guide to Advancement is a critical reference tool for anyone involved in advancement in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing and Sea Scouts.

It’s not meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, it’s organized and indexed so you can find answers to your advancement questions quickly. I appreciate that the sometimes-complicated topics covered in the Guide are conveyed in plain English.

The Guide to Advancement is updated every two years to reflect changes to programs, requirements and policies. Changes come from a team of national-level professionals and volunteers. Many of the new sections are the result of frequently asked questions that the Advancement team is answering through new policies.

You can find a complete list of significant changes to the Guide in section 1.0.3.0, beginning on Page 7. But I wanted to pick out 13 of the changes I consider the biggest:

1. Merit badge worksheets not allowed for certain requirements

Section: 4.2.0.1

What’s new: This language clarifies the official policy on something I’ve blogged about before: merit badge worksheets. Filling out a worksheet will not be allowed for requirements that use words like “show,” “demonstrate” or “discuss.”

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement“In Boy Scouting, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like ‘show,’ ‘demonstrate,’ or ‘discuss,’ then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice”

2. Scoutmaster conferences should be face-to-face, not online

Section: 4.2.3.5

What’s new: New language says Scoutmaster conferences should be held face-to-face and not online. That means Skype, which is great for some purposes but not as personal as a face-to-face conversation, is out.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Scoutmaster conferences are meant to be face-to-face, personal experiences. They relate not only to the Scouting method of advancement, but also to that of ‘association with adults’ (see topic 2.0.0.4, ‘The Methods of Scouting’). Scoutmaster conferences should be held with a level of privacy acceptable under the BSA’s rules regarding Youth Protection. Parents and other Scouts within hearing range of the conversation may influence the Scout’s participation. For this reason, the conferences should not be held in an online setting.”

3. New Cub Scout program now included in the Guide

Sections: Changes throughout the Cub Scout sections, including 4.1.0.0–4.1.1.5

What’s new: Lots. Language now reflects the new Cub Scout program that launches on June 1, 2015.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Den leaders, Cubmasters, and their assistants conduct meetings implementing the three steps in Cub Scout advancement: preparation, qualification, and recognition. Four separate den leader guides — one each for the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs, and one combined for Webelos and Arrow of Light — explain the mechanics for doing so while helping to maximize advancement.”

4. New Venturing awards outlined

Sections: 4.3.0.0 to 4.3.4.0

What’s new: Almost everything. Last year (2014) saw the introduction of a new Venturing Awards program: Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Four awards make up the Venturing advancement track: Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit, but others also are described below. Venturers have until their 21st birthday to complete their awards.”

5. Sea Scouts aren’t Venturers*

*Updated: This change is pending a vote in May.

Section: 4.4.0.0

What’s new: Sea Scouting, previously considered a “special-interest program carried on as part of Venturing,” is now separated.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement“Sea Scouts are not Venturers.” Also: “The Sea Scout Bronze Award is discontinued, and Sea Scouts no longer work on Venturing awards.”

6. Unit merit badge counselor lists shouldn’t be available to Scouts online

Section: 7.0.2.3

What’s new: Units can (and maybe even should) establish a list of registered merit badge counselors. But Scouts should get those names and contact info from a Scoutmaster, not from a list made available online.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Due to concerns about merit badge counselor privacy, and since Scouts should receive the names and contact information from the Scoutmaster, unit counselor lists should not be made available to Scouts online.”

7. Merit badge instruction should be small in scale

Section: 7.0.3.0

What’s new: Rather than large merit badge classes reminiscent of a boy’s time in high school, the BSA encourages smaller-scale instruction.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement“The sort of hands-on interactive experience described here, with personal coaching and guidance, is hardly ever achieved in any setting except when one counselor works directly with one Scout and his buddy, or with a very small group. Thus, this small-scale approach is the recommended best practice for merit badge instruction and requirement fulfillment. Units, districts, and councils should focus on providing the most direct merit badge experiences possible. Large group and Web-based instruction, while perhaps efficient, do not measure up in terms of the desired outcomes with regard to learning and positive association with adults.”

8. Merit badge prerequisites get explained

Section: 7.0.4.11

What’s new: This whole section is new. It explains merit badges that appear to have prerequisites.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Some merit badges appear to have ‘prerequisites.’ The Emergency Preparedness merit badge, for example, requires the earning of the First Aid merit badge. But since the requirement does not state that First Aid must be earned before beginning work on the other Emergency Preparedness requirements, it is not, by definition, a prerequisite. It is just another requirement. Even though ‘Earn the First Aid Merit badge’ is the first requirement, it need not be the first requirement fulfilled. It is just that the Emergency Preparedness merit badge is not finished until after the First Aid merit badge is completed.”

9. Youth observers aren’t allowed at boards of review

Section: 8.0.1.0

What’s new: No youth should sit in to “observe” a board of review.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “The unit leader may remain in the room, but only to observe, not to participate unless called upon. The number of ‘observers’ at a board of review should otherwise be minimized. The members of the board of review, however, have the authority to exclude the unit leader or any other observers if they believe their presence will inhibit open and forthright discussion. Youth observers are not permitted in boards of review for Boy Scouting advancement.”

10. Guidance offered for boards of review conducted through videoconferencing

Section: 8.0.1.6

What’s new: This whole section is new. It covers boards of review conducted through videoconferencing. Face-to-face boards of review are preferred, but sometimes that’s impossible. So this section helps explain how to run a successful board of review through this format.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “From time to time, however, as Scouts go off to college or the military, or live in very remote locations, for example, it may be virtually impossible to hold in-person boards of review. In those rare situations where it is unreasonable to expect a Scout to travel long distances, or to wait several months, it is permissible to use videoconferencing.”

11. The official Eagle Scout Rank Application is the only one to use

Section: 9.0.1.3

What’s new: A clarification explains that the official Eagle Scout Rank Application (512-728) is the only one Scouts should use.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Scouts must submit the official Eagle Scout Rank Application, No. 512-728, found at www.scouting.org/advancement. No other form or application is permitted. Special worksheets or spreadsheets have been created in some councils that when filled out electronically produce a completed application. Because the official application changes from time to time, and because submitting out-of-date applications can cause confusion and delays, Scouts must not be required to use these tools. If they do use them, they still must complete and submit the official Eagle Scout Rank Application.”

12. Crowdfunding for Eagle Scout projects explained

Section: 9.0.2.10

What’s new: Fundraising for Eagle Scout projects isn’t required. Plenty of awesome projects are completed without fundraising. But if a Scout needs to raise money, he may use crowdfunding to do so, provided he follows the policies outlined in this section. This is something I’ve blogged about.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Typical unit fundraisers with which unit leadership is familiar, such as car washes, are the best options. Another alternative, contingent on local council approval, is the use of ‘crowdfunding’ via the Internet. If this method is used, however, then all concerned, from the Scout and his parent or guardian to the unit leader and those approving fundraising at the local council, should be aware that fees may be involved and that fundraising for something like an Eagle project may or may not comply with the website’s terms of service. There can be other issues as well, such as what to do if more — or less — than what is needed is raised. It is important that someone in a position of responsibility reads and understands the website’s ‘fine print.'”

13. Request for Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility form created

Section: 10.1.0.2

What’s new: This new form is used to register a person who will remain as a youth member beyond the age of eligibility.

Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement“The Request for Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility, No. 512-935, found in the appendix and at www.scouting.org/advancement, should be used in this process.”

See the complete 2015 Guide to Advancement

Go here for the PDF.

217 Comments on 2015 Guide to Advancement out now; here are 13 of the biggest changes

  1. Any word on when we’ll see the new insignia guide?

    • Somewhere around late September/early October…it is being completed now and going through various reviews…

  2. As a merit badge counselor for many years I strongly agree with Number 7: Small Scale Classes. But what does that do to Summer Camps? I haven’t seen a camp that averages classes smaller than about 25-30 per course, and that comes from experience in councils from all four regions. That hits pretty close to school class sizes if you ask me…

    • I had the same thought. Wonder what the answer is?

      • National do as I say not as I do.

    • Burt Burrell // April 23, 2015 at 3:36 pm // Reply

      I whole heartily agree. This would extend to most if not all PowWows. The boys are are not really experiencing merit badge the way it is intended. Instead boys end up going to summer camp or powwow, attend a “class” that they just sit through and come out with another merit badge that did very little to achieve the desired results. Many boys no longer even know what a merit badge book is. They do precious little explaining, demonstrating or showing. Small group or individual merit badge work is best for the boy and best for scouting.

      • H. David Pendletons // April 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm // Reply

        It appears that Merit Bade Colleges/Universities/etc. will need to reduce class size to meet the new guidance. Saw one just the other day that listed 50 for one of the citizenship classes. It didn’t say that there were going to be more than one class/MB Counselor, but that number floored me.

        • Something like Citizenship requires a lot of things to be done outside the class. Fifty is still a very large class but with something like Citizenship it wouldn’t really be that bad. Our merit badge Trail Drive never has that many in any one class.

      • Amen! Amen! Amen! Can’t agree more. The giant Pow Wows regularly put on by our council, district, and local university have destroyed advancement in our area. We have strayed far from scouting ideals and have instead brought on an epidemic of mediocrity, cheating, and corner cutting, where little is learned and less gained in terms of experience that builds men. I am SO glad to see the BSA stand up to this and to set it straight. Now if only our council will fall in line instead of depriving tens of thousands of boys in our area of what they could gain if only advancement was done correctly. I want to shout it from the rooftops…AMEN!!!

    • Texas Scouter // April 24, 2015 at 7:19 am // Reply

      Completely agree. I don’t know that you will ever get around larger classes at summer camp; however MBU’s, need to have a smaller class size requirement.

      I could go on, but it would just re-hash everything that has been argued and debated on this blog previously.

    • How to reduce summer camp class sizes? 1. Offer fewer merit badges, but more sessions of those badges. 2. Organize some of the merit badges into two parts, and promote the idea that a Scout will work on Part 1 at camp this summer, and either return to take the Part 2 class next summer, or complete Part 2 elsewhere. Sort of a standardized system of “partials.” 3. Offer more sessions of fun Scouting skills activities that result in a camp “participation” patch and compete directly with merit badge classes, to draw off Scouts who would otherwise be in merit badge classes.

    • Number 7 should have come out 10 or 15 years ago. I think that now the merit badge “school” culture is too engrained in Boy Scouting, and far too efficient at serving up awards to be significantly altered. After all, _all_ of the stakeholders — Scouts, leaders, merit badge counselors, parents, and BSA — want Scouts to earn lots of merit badges. Well, a system has been worked out that achieves that goal. As for that “other” goal, the hands-on interactive experience, well, that is pretty squishy. Who’s to say that it wasn’t achieved in a larger group setting, particularly when the merit badge counselor has the last word on whether requirements were completed?

      If the Advancement Committee really wants to achieve that hands-on interactive experience while still making it possible for Scouts to earn lots of merit badges and while keeping Scouts, Scout leaders, and parents happy, they need to create the conditions in which that can be achieved. One way to do that is by tweaking the merit badge requirements.

      First: Every merit badge has book-knowledge requirements — for many merit badges, these are the bulk of the requirements. Just accept the fact that these have been and will continue to be presented in lecture and lecture/disussion formats with worksheets. Encourage all book-knowledge requirements to be presented in large classes. Put the stamp of approval on merit badge schools for _those_ requirements.

      Second: Provide that all experience or hands-on requirements (which will be clearly marked as such) may ONLY be presented in “labs” — groups of 2 to 6 Scouts (no more, no less). If the lab rule is followed for the experiential requirements, the labs can be held in a merit badge school setting (as well as any other time that is convenient for the merit badge counselor.)

      This would work out great for summer camps. Scouts would be encouraged to take the knowledge requirements for summer camp merit badges through a merit badge school at home before coming to summer camp. Then summer camp would only consist of labs — hands-on interactive experiences with Scouts in very small groups.

      • Dan some merit badges can not be done in a “lab” setting. Doubt any merit badge counselor wants to come to my house to watch my son feed and document the care of his lizard for 30 days(Reptile studies) , watch him do his chores for 90days (family life), watch him track his geocach for 30 days (Geocaching) there are a lot of merit badges that require 30-90 days of requirements that can not be done in a classroom setting. In those cases, I do document with photos everything that my son does, he also takes pictures of everything for documentation purposes, a scout is trustworthy but some “leaders” want eyes on proof which I’m fine with as long as I’m not expected to house them while they are eyeballing my family.
        I do agree, everything can not be done at a summer camp. You can’t cram a 90 day requirement into a 6 day camp. The camping merit badge requires 4 miles of backpacking and a 15 mile bike ride while camping as a patrol, this one can be hard since some boys don’t own bicycles, yes, there are other choices but these are the most obtainable for our area.
        Some of the hobby badges are easier than others but even those sometimes require actual work.
        My son buys the merit badge books from the scout shop with money he earns from chores, he reads the book, prints out the worksheets and actually has most of them done before scout camp. He is not a fast writer so he’d rather be ahead than behind. All scouts should read the merit badge books before camp so that they know what they are taking and what is expected. Just my opinion.

        • The lab is for (a) working on the kinds of experiences that are hands-on with the counselor, and (b) discussing experiences the Scout does on his own or where the counselor is not present.

      • “particularly when the merit badge counselor has the last word on whether requirements were completed”

        You might want to look at section 7.0.4.7 of the Guide to Advancement, “Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges.” That section provides in pertinent part,

        “if it remains clear under the circumstances that some or all of the requirements could not have been met, then the merit badge is not reported or awarded, and does not count toward advancement. The unit leader then offers the name of at least one other merit badge counselor through whom any incomplete requirements may be finished. Note that in this case a merit badge is not “taken away” because, although signed off, it was never actually earned.”

        As I have argued, it seems better for BSA to act to head off the merit badge mills at the start instead of putting it on the “troop leader” to investigate, discover, and veto the incidence of fraudulent issuance of unearned merit badges.

        • Rare, and as the heading states, “limited.”

        • Tom Linton // April 24, 2015 at 11:32 am //

          Certainty rarely used. Not very limited in potential for dealing with merit badge mills.

        • This is a big step. We had a scout go to a one day program then presented us with a completed blue card for Citizenship Merit Badge. We asked what he did to determine what merit badge and he basically sat there and participated in the day’s program. Had they put Citizenship in the Nation, under the old way, we would have been required to report and present it, even though he could not name any requirements he did to earn the badge.

      • I have never seen a “book knowledge” question. That is, I’ve never seen a requirement that a Scout “know” something. I’ve seen requirements that a Scout “Explain” or “discuss” items, and that’s the problem with large-scale MB classes – the individual Scout is generally not explaining or discussing anything, instead he is passively sitting in the class. If the class is solely for the purpose of conveying information, with the idea that the Scout will follow-up with an actual MB counselor, I have no problem with that.

      • James Eager // July 3, 2015 at 9:40 am // Reply

        I like what you have, but offer the following modification. Lab size max is 8 (1 patrol). Lab to be conducted where the counselor has a ratio of 1 teacher per 8 Scouts max. This is exactly the ratio I have in my Railroading Merit badge classes (15 scouts/ 1 counselor+ assistant.) We have the lecture portion, then we move into the car build and the “almost” hands on of different car scales (I bring the cars so the boys can feel the sizes.) Each scout gets to run his completed car on the test track with an engine I bring.

    • Solution: stop offering merit badges that aren’t a part of an outdoor camp.
      Continue to have Merit Badges that require equipment and specialized training like swimming, boating, climbing, ATVs, orienteering, etc. And just go over the portion of the Merit Badge that is the “doing” part. But just simply stop having all of the sit-down classes that scouts could do on their own (or should I say SHOULD do on their own) at Summer Camps.

      Then if a Scout wants to complete the full Sailing merit badge at camp, have the pamphlets available, let him study on his own and then have registered and knowledgeable MB counselors on hand to go over the requirements to finish it. They can schedule a time if they want. Or not and just learn to go sail.

      This puts the onus on the Scout to finish the Merit Badge instead of knowing they can just go sit in a class, be bored an not really pay attention, but are guaranteed another patch for their sash.

      My son was so bored at these summer merit badge session that it drug down the whole week. Summer Camp is about outdoors and having fun. Have swimming every day, let the kids rappel, sail a boat, tromp through the swamp, play games, go on a hike, have fun ALL the time. Summer Camp doesn’t have to be about Merit Badges. Maybe Merit Badges should be the least thing offered at summer camp.

      • I agree with Mike. Merit badges ruin summer camp. Summer camp should be about fun and doing outdoor activities. If they complete some outdoor requirements for a badge, great. But the school-like schedule of merit badge classes and the whole system is really really awful, especially when the staff is comprised of 15 and 16 year olds who are not experts in the merit badge subject.

        I lot of camps really fail at offering fun activities as I sit and look at them. The local girl scout camp does a much better job. Each week has a different theme and activity. For example, the girls come in and immediately pack their stuff away for a week sea kayaking. Or they head out on a backpack trip. They don’t do badge work. Our boys? Sit in merit badge school. What a shame. The reason? Lack of imagination and leadership on the part of National and our council on what a BSA summer camp experience should be. Shame on all of us.

      • Yesterday's Scout // April 25, 2015 at 3:29 am // Reply

        Go hide under a table, everyone … I am about to agree with mikemenn. The sky may fall!

        Forty years ago when I was a youth in summer camp there was plenty of time for fishing, swimming, and hiking the trails through camp. The rifle and archery ranges were open during the day. There were towers to climb, made from logs lashed together.

        My sons’ experiences at summer camp are much different. Summer camp today has become just another merit badge factory. All day, every day, they are in a merit badge “class” with little to no time to enjoy being at camp.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with Mike. But summer camps offer the programs that their customers want. And what their customers want are to return home with a boatload of merit badges. If that means that they have to sit in boring classes all day to get through all of the school-like requirements, so be it — the customers don’t write the requirements. From the perspective of the customers, if BSA wanted them running around in the outdoors having fun all day at summer camp, the merit badge requirements would be written that way.

        So if you want to change how summer camp is done, you either have to change the Advancement-focused culture of Scouting so that customers are no longer interested in going to summer camp to get boatloads of merit badges, OR you need to change Advancement (that is, merit badge requirements) so that Advancement promotes running around in the outdoors having fun all day at summer camp.

        What you can’t do is push school-like Advancement all year, and then expect summer camps to tell Scouts, leaders, and parents that they need to take a break from Advancement and pay good money to spend a week just running around in the woods having fun.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 11:35 am //

          Dan, is that along the lines of don’t blame the pushers for supplying what the addicts want?

        • Ha! No, because pushers have a choice about whether they are going to be pushers. Summer camps are extensions of BSA and the Councils — they don’t have the freedom to decide to alienate their customers (and thereby significantly reduce the money they bring in) by offering fewer merit badges or only offering partials; nor do they have the freedom to change the merit badge requirements to make them more fun. Summer camps are victims of the boring merit badge requirements pumped out by the Advancement Committee and of the Advancement-centered Scouting culture that all of have contributed to.

        • But there’s no feed back from units attending saying “we’d like less Merit Badge classes and more fun.” So it’s a perceived need that isn’t there or “well, this is what we do” mentality. How many surveys of Boy Scouts is there which asks “what do YOU want at summer camp?” I bet given the choice, few would want the sit-down classes.

        • We have summer camps that offer programs that don’t issue merit badges. The programs that do offer merit badges are much more popular with the vast majority of campers who tend to be younger Scouts. The older Scouts sometimes like programs that don’t offer merit badges and we have high adventure programs for them.

          I think a lot of it is giving your customer what they want rather then telling them what they should want.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 12:55 pm //

          And I wonder about the “popularly” of merit badge “programs” if the candidates actually had to earn the merit badges? Everyone wants the “free” prize, not understanding that nothing in real is free. The price we are paying for merit badge fraud is very real, if hard to quantify like the 600% increase in Eagle Scouts.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm //

          So the pushers are forced to supply the bad stuff because otherwise they would be out of business. Sounds very values-oriented to me. Not.

          Try this. The camp we went to last year gave out over 90 MB’s – a good many solely indoor and most solely on the basis of attendance at “classes.” (What an awful word for Scouting!) The one we are going to this year fills with about 40 MB’s. That, respectfully, is a start.

        • Tom,
          There is recourse.

          There is a form you can fill out in the back of the Guide to Advancement and submit to your Council Advancement Chair complaining about your camp experience. I would do that, then I would follow up and ask what is being done about it. If I didn’t get a satisfactory answer, then I would go to my council president.

          Camp accreditation now requires all BSA camps to comply with what is in the GTA.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm //

          I have filled out seven such forms for seven different merit badge mills. The last camp was run by a council without an advancement committee. (I sent a letter to the Scout Executive instead.) None of the forms (or the letter) was even acknowledged, much less resulted in compliance with the GTA.

          I have also tried opening a dialog with the advancement team at Corporate. They have a lovely form brush-off email. Several years ago, one person on that team told be BSA could do nothing about merit badge mills.

          I am interested this year in seeing how 300 minutes/30 candidates works for First Aid Merit Badge.

        • The SE probably won’t worry too much about the camp as long as they get accredited each time they are audited and the camp isn’t run at too much of a loss. The secret is not just fill out a form and toss it over the wall. But to follow it up with the chain of command and warn them that they could lose their accreditation of the auditors agree with you (they may not, you may not be reasonable, etc. etc.) So the chain of command is: Council Advancement Chair / Program Director / Council Vice President of Program then Council President / Scout Executive then if no one is listening: Region Advancement Chair and Region President (the region audits the camps)

          The National Advancement Team really won’t step in the middle of this I don’t think.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm //

          When there are only rewards for breaking rules and no penalties, what would one predict?

          This scam and fraud of handing out unearned merit badges goes on year after year in camp after camp. It is so well known that many camps openly advertise that they are NOT “merit badge mills.” (Imagine entering a town and seeing sign after sign reading “No drugs sold in THIS house.” )

          BSA knows this is going on, acknowledged as much to me, and, again, told me nothing could be done. That last must mean that camp certification is not actually a process to insure that camps follow BSA policy. A camp, like the one we attended last year, which, on the face of it, CANNOT be actually offering merit badges in compliance with the GTA should not get the A flag. But they did — and they have — and they will — until the words about values are at least somewhat matched by behavior.

          Let one of these untrustworthy and disloyal camps lose certification, and the word will get around.

          Cheating should not be a good career path.

        • I gave you the chain of command to work with.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 2:45 pm //

          Bill, most of the troops at last year’s mill came from other councils. What authority do they have over that camp? Zip.

          In the council running the camp, the chain of command is from the SE to the Program Director (Although she was not happy at all about what was going on) Three communications to that council were totally ignored. No Advancement Committee was identified or can be found on the Internet. So we are going to try another council. But be assured that the mill will grind on with a rate for First Aid, for example, of 10 minutes per candidate for the week.

          So telling me to do what has been proven to have no effect is not much of an answer.

          “Camp Brulé is not a merit badge mill”

          “Camp Winton is not a merit badge “mill”

          “Holcomb Valley Scout ranch…is not a merit badge mill.”

          Camp Frontier IS a merit badge mill.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm //

          And Dan, before my old council fired their program director and turned things around, he made it clear to the Advancement Committee that they had no say in his merit badge millery. He was, he said, in charge of the camp. (His maneuvers including making all the CIT’s 14-year-old “merit badge counselors” to “pick up the pace.”)

          The council running the merit badge mill we tried last summer has no functioning council advancement committee. The whole mess is driven by the Scout Executive and his goal of “filling” the camp. Think of party favors. Do not think of values or “Adult Association.”

        • Mike wrote: But there’s no feed back from units attending saying “we’d like less Merit Badge classes and more fun.”
          ——————–
          Any feedback like that will be rare indeed, and will come from folks like us who have actually thought about how this whole Scouting thing ought to work.

          But in any case, summer camps get lots of feedback of many different kinds, all year round — from the program director getting buttonholed by an adult leader at camp to end-of-week evaluations to council-wide surveys to unit leader orientation meetings. And that is just from the users. Keep in mind that there is a whole other set of feedback — from council management and from BSA. We just finished filling out BSA’s National Camp Accreditation Program Application to Operate so that our council can have summer camp for the next X years. A big piece of that application is a camp’s sustainability. Not environmental sustainability; _financial_ sustainability.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 1:12 pm //

          It does not escape attention that money is important. Just how important, we are seeing.

          Scout
          I didn’t work on the merit badge.
          I didn’t get tested on the merit badge.
          They gave me the merit badge.

          Staffer
          I didn’t have time to teach them the material.
          I didn’t have time to pass them on the requirements.
          I singed them off on the merit badge.( or I was not even a registered merit badge counselor for that merit badge and someone who was registered as a MBC signed all the blue cards without ever having seen the candidates.)

          And the Aims of Scouting are ?

        • Ha!
          The Aims or Scouting are to make better boys.
          The Aims of the BSA is to stay in the black. 🙂

          If I were king for a day,

          a) Camps would do away with all “class based” or “lecture” requirements of the merit badges offered and provide a nice library for scouts to VOLUNTARILY go and study.

          b) The camp itself would provide materials and equipment for the the “doing” requirements for each merit badge offered and the Scouts would schedule time to go do those tasks with their “registered” Merit Badge Counselor (or camp Boy Scout leader): sports equipment, cooking area, sailboats, basket weaving, Indian Lore, ATVs, SCUBA, etc.

          c) Scouts would then have to register time with the REAL Merit Badge Counselors who would be on-hand at the camps to finish up the Merit Badge. In this situation, a MBC could would see 2 or 3 at a time. Local Scout leaders could volunteer time for 2 or 3 hours in the evening after work to finish this process … or a whole day at the end of the week.

          Alternative: Scouts could just sign up and go do this fun stuff without ever thinking about getting the Merit Badge. Or they could work on requirements for 2nd or 1st class. Or have NYLT.

        • Try this as a place to start: Have a meeting of all of your Scouts, leaders, and parents. Read them the recommendation from section 7.0.3.0 in the Guide to Advancement, and make the case for how important it is. Tell that from now on, your unit will follow that recommendation, both with regard to merit badge events and summer camp. No exceptions — even though 7.0.3.2 says group instruction is sometimes okay — because “Large group and Web-based instruction, while perhaps efficient, do not measure up in terms of the desired outcomes with regard to learning and positive association with adults.” Tell your Scouts, leaders, and parents what that change will mean for your troop program and how your Scouts advance — and how quickly they advance.

          Then, if you are still alive, come back and tell us what the reaction was.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 2:12 pm //

          Oh Dan, I wish I could. I hope others can. Sounds good. Truly. If the junkies stop buying, the dealers will be in trouble.

          As for me, I am only an SA in my troop. My SM (totally untrained [and how can that be?]) believes that Scouting is all about and only about advancement and judges camps solely on the number of MB secured and how smoothly the Blue Cards flow on Saturday.

          The troop committee is also totally untrained, and they think the SM is Dan Beard returned to life.

          And he MUST be right, as he was named Scoutmaster of the Year in my new council. (Want to guess what statistics we led the council in that year, and most years?) (At least we have patrols now after thirteen years.)

          I only got us out of last year’s MB mill by pointing out that Scouts might not be credited with MB’s given away if BSA even actually enforced the rules. That was actually something of a fairy story, but I accurately quoted the language.

          In the meanwhile, how about BSA acting like the words have meaning?

      • I totally agree with Mike. But I really don’t believe it’s going to change substantially at BSA summer camps. The price is too high to attend and the mentality is that camp is for advancement. In my area, it seems that the majority of advancement comes solely from camps or the merit badge round ups. I look at the advancement reports and see months with 0-2 earned merit badges for an entire district, and then following summer camp or our merit badge round up much higher numbers.
        It really depends on the unit committee to monitor merit badge attainment, and so many don’t “get” the program or feel like advancement is the be all end all of Scouting. It even seems National has that mentality as the big changes over the last several years in Cub Scouting has been to ensure Cubs get rank because that’s what keeps them in.
        If it does stop the merit badge mills – Merit Badge Roundups, Universities, etc that would be a great thing. Not that all of these are bad, it’s just that we get so aggressive. I remember years ago when I was in the National Capital Area Council, the local electric company (PEPCO) held MB weekends, but only offered a limited number, and they were tied specifically to professions in the company. If I remember correctly, electricity, nuclear science and oceanography (the company had a small ship used for monitoring the waters around the nuclear plant). Those were intensive 2 day programs led by experienced professionals in their field. I would support that type of program any time, but what I see around now is attend, get a blue card, next class please.

    • Rachel Cadwell // April 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm // Reply

      Group instruction is still acceptable in a Summer Camp and University setting as mention is section 7.0.3.2.

    • Good points Loren.

      Some of this is dependent on the Counselor.

      In 2012 I was in a Wood Carving class at a Merit Badge Challenge. They had 20 boys. However, they also had 5 Counselors, a solid 4 to 1 ratio. This one of the best MB classes I have witnessed. It was hands-on, with do-able, fun projects and with an emphasis on safety.

      The same year I sat in on the Electricity class. The counselors told the scouts to fill out worksheets. They provided little instruction and only one project was provided. I was very disappointed.

    • Part of the new camp accreditation program they are audited in compliance with the Guide to Advancement

      • Camp inspector visits Camp Lame Summer School:

        Merit Badge counselors are 18 or older? No? Well, we’ll have someone else sign the card so it’s official.

        Merit Badge counselors are “recognized as having the skills and education in the merit
        badge subjects covered and hold any required qualifications and training” ? No? Well, I say you’re trained and here’s the pamphlet. Read it. Awesome – now you do.

        Small sessions? No? Well, we’ll write an exception for summer camps into the GTA so don’t worry.

        Meet all the requirements? What’s that you say? You can’t expect everyone to actually meet the requirements as written so we’ll make up some weasle word lawyer-like way to work around them? Check.

        Add value to the merit badge experience by bringing in years of experience and real world knowledge? No? Well never mind

        Adult association? No? Well never mind

        Okay – you guys did great. You are now a 100% fully accredited BSA camp.

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 9:33 am //

          Can’t wait to see what happens? To chew on National when it says a specific effort will be made to enforce the rules is not helpful — or courteous.

      • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 9:31 am // Reply

        Sounds good. But my troop is attending camp in Ohio, not in Compliance. Will the enforcement be the same?

        • Note that an instructor doesn’t have to be a registered MBC if a registered MBC oversees the instruction (e.g., using a PADI certified instructor from a local SCUBA shop who isn’t registered as a MBC but someone who is, is overseeing the activity.) Something similar happens at most summer camps.

          If you have a complaint about any MBC or camp, there is a form in the Guide to Advancement you can fill in and submit to your council’s advancement committee. They are responsible for overseeing how the MB program is executed in your council.

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 10:54 am //

          A qualified non-MBC can do all of the instruction. The requirement is that the candidate must be individually passed on all requirements by a registered MBC ( minimum 18 years of age). Only such a MBC can legally sign the blue card.

          Instead, one device the mills use is to have a MBC sign the blue cards fraudulently for all the “classes.” That was the area “director” at one mill we attended. I witnessed her signing stacks of cards from “classes” she had never even attended – much less tested. It is not possible to have a pleasant conversation with someone caught cheating, but I was polite. She cried – and kept signing. It was a condition of her employment to cheat. We came back in a couple of years, and she was Program Director, and the mill ground on. (I see “class” sizes have been reduced at that camp. Perhaps improvement is starting. But the head miller is still in place, so . . . .)

          Again, this council had no advancement committee identified or that could be found. All communication about the problem was ignored. There is no formalized process for raising this with National, and years of emails to National were ignored.

          And I find no amendment of National Camp Standards regarding insuring that GTA rules are followed by council camps.

        • Tom, the MBC doesn’t have to personally test the Scout. If that were the case, the MBC would have to be a certified PADI instructor and qualified to certify someone in SCUBA. All the MBC counselor must do is be satisfied that the Scout has completed the requirement as written. If the camp instructor tells the MBC that and the MBC trusts the camp instructor, then that would qualify. See the GTA 7.0.3.1 The Buddy System and Certifying Completion

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 11:36 am //

          You are, of course, correct. I realize that I was writing in light of the situation I have seen at council camps since 1981.

          My experience does not mean that it is physically impossible for each candidate to have gone through all the requirements with a competent staffer who could certify to each candidate’s accomplishment to an actual Merit Badge Counselor.

          It simply does not usually happen in the real world. We are going to a camp in July that has classes of 30 for First Aid with a single staffer. We are told the classes are “full.” No “after-hours” counseling is provided.

          MBC or not, whoever is the single staffer will have 8.3 minutes for each candidate — LESS time spent “teaching” in “class.” Simple arithmetic dictates that there will be little or no time to individually pass a candidate. Oh, I am sure the staffer will do his or her best to get a general feeling about the candidates. I was a teacher, so I know the feeling that one has identified a student who is “on the ball.” But nothing like what the GTA describes will be taking place.

          But it could.

          Did I tell you about the Scout with the signed blue card for Pioneering who literally could not tie a single knot? “Project? What’s that?” he said. We don’t have space.

        • Tom, your example should have been brought before the Camp Director at the time the camp was going on so that future session at the camp could correct the problem. It is something your council advancement chairman should look into for this year. It is their job to do so. (see chapter 3 I think it is, in the GTA)

        • Bill: this is a nation wide problem. You keep telling us to talk to the camp director or to our council advancement committee. Some of us have. We’re ignored. The camp director I’ve spoken to is arrogant and says he knows best. You keep defending the guide to advancement like it was the Holy Bible. Get real. Have you visited a summer camp? Or ten of them? Have you seen what goes on and what is considered “meeting the requirements as written” that the camps now deem as acceptable? Yes – I’ve seen kids get canoeing MB who did not know how to properly hold the paddle, never mind steer a canoe. Kids who “earned” swimming who could not swim. Kids who “earned” pioneering MB who could not tie a knot. You keep telling us everything would be okay if we just talked to someone… well we do, and we’re ignored. This is a national problem. Stop telling us to talk to local people when it is endemic. If the BSA wanted to solve the issue, they could very easily. But they don’t because they want lots of merit badges “earned” and they want as many Eagle scouts as they can possibly get each year.

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 1:41 pm //

          l now see the reason for my “confusion.” As recently as 2008 or 2011, the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures provided at p. 34. :

          “Camp merit badge counselors must be qualified (see ‘‘Qualifications of Counselors,’’ page 13). Camp staff members who are qualified in the subject and are younger than age 18 may assist the merit badge counselor with instruction. The merit badge counselor or instructor in a particular subject should be available to both individuals and groups. However, regardless of the class format, each Scout must be reviewed individually by the
          counselor to ensure completion of the badge’s requirements”

          This language seems to have been superseded by the Guide to Advancement.

          So the express requirement that “each Scout must be reviewed individually by the counselor to ensure completion of the badge’s requirements” has gone away. The goal is unchanged in theory, but one clear statement of a requirement to be sure the objective is obtained has been eliminated.

          I referred to that requirement in my first communication to National about merit badge mills some ten years ago.

          BSA’s National Counsel says: “Just because you were doing something wrong for a long time doesn’t mean it’s right. We’re Boy Scouts, and once we become aware of the rules. we follow the rules — even if we’ve been ignorant of them or there’s been an intentional disregard in the past.”

          Or not.

          But WAIT! There’s something that was missed: “Summer Camp Merit Badge Counselors”

          “The same qualifications and rules for merit badge counselors apply to council summer camp merit badge programs. All merit badge counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the merit badge counselor.” BSA 2015

          I submit that when all personal contact with a candidate is by youth staff, then youth staff is impermissibly serving in the role of merit badge counselor as that role is described by BSA. For example it is the counselor who is to “[e]ncourage self-evaluation and self-reflection, and establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask for help.”

          What do you think?

          Remember: ” It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.” BSA 2015.

        • Tom, see section PD-106 for advancement standards

          See page 6 for a discussion of the Assessment and Accreditation Cycle

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 11:56 am //

          Lovely words. And the entire point is that the words often do not result in compliance with GTA.

          Nor are the other standards enforced. The summer of the knotless Pioneering Merit Badges, there was not one adult staffer at the Scoutcraft Area, and all the gear and supplies in the entire area fit in a single 18gal. Rubbermaid tub. (Our troop collected $200 and went into Morgantown to buy supplies. Among other things, they had no rope on Monday – none.) That was the week the camp got its A Flag.

          I have never said the words are not good words.

          But why do camps have to publish these good words?

          “Camp Emerson is not a merit badge mill”

          “Camp Whitsett is not a merit badge mill”

          “Woodland Trails is not a merit badge mills”

        • Tom,
          Ask your council

        • Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm //

          Bill, as I have noted, my observation are of camps run by other councils, in several states as it happens”: PA, OH, WV, WI, MI. Polite, if unwanted, communications to those councils over thirty years were totally ignored.

          My current council has no summer camp. Our closest neighbor’s camp was beneath consideration for many years. (That’s the one with all the CIT’s as “Merit Badge Counselors.” But at least the food was awful.) A couple of years ago, that council got a super pro, a star. Although I am only an SA I have tried to suggest to the PLC that they give that camp a look. However, there is a troop legend about that camp from the bad old days, and “everybody knows.”

          So the repeated comments to go to “council” an not on point.

          Nor do the operating council accredit their merit badge mill camps.

  3. CuriousGeorge // April 23, 2015 at 2:31 pm // Reply

    How do Youth Protection policies apply to members who are over 18 but are registered as youth? Does “two-deep” still apply?

    • Isn’t that a guide to safe scouting question?

      • Irrelevant questions and comments are a time honored tradition on Bryan’s blog. Give George a break, he’s just carrying on the tradition.

    • Cheryl Dorwin // April 25, 2015 at 9:32 am // Reply

      Unless the member over 18 is “Special Needs” as far as I know they can NOT be a scout. Once they hit that magic day of their 18th birthday, they get blessed with that extra “er” (Scouter not Scout) in their membership ranks. Does anybody know differently?

      • Tom McFadden // April 25, 2015 at 11:10 am // Reply

        Venturing and Exploring can have youth members who are 20. They don’t work on merit badges, but they are youth members.

        • Scouts who are 18 – 20 must now register as adult BSA member (see the new adult membership application), however my interpretation is that these young adults are still “Scouts”. Here is an extract from a message that I received from a SE:

          “Following a National BSA Executive Board Resolution one year ago regarding membership standards, the BSA has developed a revised BSA Adult Application that will be used starting March 1, 2015.”

          “Venturers and Sea Scouts under age 21 will still be considered youth members in crews and ships (and also in the Order of the Arrow). These young adults may continue to serve in youth leadership roles, such as Crew President, Sea Scout Boatswain, etc., and will still be eligible for Venturing/Sea Scout advancement and youth recognition. They will still not be eligible to hold the adult positions…”

    • The only way that happens is when a Scout who has no intention of registering as an adult turns 18 during the charter year, as Venturers aged 18-20 now must register as adults and use the code “VP” for “Venturing Participant” on the adult application (Rank advancement, youth leadership, and all that other “youth stuff” for a Boy Scout ceases at age 18, but his youth registration continues until the expiration date on his membership card). Even in those limited circumstances, Youth Protection policies apply to that 18-year-old.

      • By the way, my answer above does not include Scouts with disabilities, but youth protection applies to them too.

  4. so Scouts can no longer use the merit badge counselor of their choice? They have to use the one given them by the scoutmaster? Aside from the burden that will place on a SM to know counselors to all merit badges, why is a scout required to use a counselor supplied by the SM, if there are other counselors that are council approved? I know in our troop there are some leaders that just don;t get along with some scouts (personality conflicts, Leader does not know how to teach an asperger’s child, etc.) and vice versa. As a parent I will not let my kid take a merit badge from some folks and if the SM insists what is our recourse if we cannot use another council approved MB Counselor. I am also a MB counselor for several badges, some common and some not, how does any random SM know that i am counselor for Nuclear Science?

    • They are allowed to use the merit badge counselor of their choice; however, they must get the list of available counselors from their scoutmaster.

    • I’m reading this differently than you. I don’t think it says a scout can’t get a whole list of counselors and pick the one they want, it just says the list should not be ONLINE (“unit counselor lists should not be made available to Scouts online).

      • that’s also the way I read it, just not online. Our troop does not have MB counselors for every subject. Our local nature center has counselors for 12 different MB’s and a lot the younger scouts prefer them because they’ve known them since being cub scouts. I prefer my son to have a counselor that he is comfortable with and trusts, not be assigned one that he has conflict with.

        • Tom McFadden // April 25, 2015 at 11:12 am //

          part of the system of merit badges and how they work, is to get the scouts to contact adults they don’t know and talk to them. This is to teach them life skills, like being able to talk to someone older than them that they don’t know, as happens in many professions. If the boy consistently goes to merit badge counselors he knows and feels comfortable with, he will never learn the life skill to be able to communicate something to a stranger.

          everything we do in Scouting is done for a reason. It may not appear obvious at first, but there is reason and logic behind it.

        • kimberly // April 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm //

          Tom, I understand what you are saying but some MB counselor choices are limited so I prefer my son be counseled by someone I trust when the only other option is someone that I wouldn’t let my dog be around. It’s fine if you don’t mind who is around your child but I prefer someone that I trust. That’s just me. Sometimes there aren’t any counselors available for certain merit badges so if you don’t take the MB at summer/winter camp then you have to check with the nature centers and museums since there is not a district or council list available. My son teaches the younger kids bible lessons at church, he has no problem with communication with adults or other children.
          I do understand that some scout have communication skills and are very immature but not all scouts have that problem.

        • Kim, there should be no counselors who you wouldn’t trust your dog to (especially for pets merit badge), if there is, call your SE.
          Most nature centers have counselors are registered with the BSA. They are probably on the list with their contact being the nature center. So that’s a non-issue.
          The issue is making sure of it. Sounds like the folks you know have built up a reputation. That’s one way to make sure. The other way is to talk to scouts who earned the badge. Ask the boys what the did for some of the more demanding requirements of the badge. E.g., did they actually have to explain things from memory, or were they allowed to bring in notes? Were they expected to know the material before hand, or could they learn it in class and spout it off in the same hour?
          Choose a counselor who will challenge your boy appropriately.

    • I read chp 7 in its entirety. section 7.0.4.6 still says “Scouts must be allowed to work with
      registered and approved counselors of their choice as
      outlined in “About the Application for Merit Badge”
      (“Blue Card”),” 7.0.0.2.” SO how does a scout get to work with counselor X if the SM will not give the Scout the name and contact information for X but only for another counselor.

      • I’m missing something. Where does it say a scout can’t look at the entire list? It only says the list should not be made available online. I think you are reading too much into it. They only want to protect the privacy of the counselors by not putting their contact info online for everyone to see. I’m not seeing anywhere that is says a scout can’t see a whole list or pick the counselor of his choice.

        • keithbrownley // April 23, 2015 at 7:39 pm //

          I have run into a couple of troops that control the speed of progress by rationing out merit badges and tightly controlling these lists. The troops that encourage free choice are the ones that will run into the online issue most likely.
          It doesn’t say anything about emailing list or other digital means. It seems to try and cut down on SPAM attacks and Phishing against the counselors.
          This could be another problem for the Merit Badge Midways/Colleges/Universities.
          If you wanted to stop Merit Badge Midways/Colleges/Universities, GTA 2015 is a real good start.

        • The issue we have is that the counselor list is not well maintained. People who have been counselors are no longer on the list but have signed off because “they used to”. Others have the know how but have never been officially approved. Some scrambling has had to be done to correct problems like this as boys move closer to Eagle.

      • Michelle DeDeo // April 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm // Reply

        In our Troop, we keep the list on TroopMaster and when the Blue Card is opened in the computer (the Scout has to get the Blue Card from the Advancement Chair (AC), then get it opened by the SM), the AC opens the list and tell the Scout who’s available.

        Sometimes a MBC has too many Scouts (or is not taking youth for whatever reason) and we simply tell them that the MBC they want isn’t available, but these others are. I think “Scouts must…” should be replaced with “If available, then Scouts must…”.

        I do agree that a list shouldn’t just “be out there” for Scouts and parents to peruse. First, it could lead to conflicting instructions if a Scout starts working with one MBC and then contacts another (And about the YPT issue brought up earlier regarding having a third person cc-ed in emails & texts…why shouldn’t another adult be on the line during a phone call as well?)

        Second, part of the SM opening the Blue Card is that it gives the SM the opportunity to talk to the Scout about their goals and lets the SM know what’s going on with their troop.

        • Since blue cards are not required (they are convenient, but some places don’t use them and some even discourage them) and the scout gets to use the counselor of their choice, how can your troop make certain counselors ‘off limits’ even before the scout and counselor have had a chance to talk? How is that not adding in requirements or barriers to advancement that are not in the BSA rules?..and we know that is clearly something no one can do.

          We have had scoutmasters in our area require use of counselors from HIS list and refuse toe let kids work on a merit badge until he thinks hey are ready. I am very much against such meddling. Part of the MB process is the scout finding a MB counselor and having that discussion with them to see if they think it is a fit. As long as the Council and District have approved the MB counselor how can the unit forbid them. I can see me as a parent not allowing my kid to work with certain folks, but as a leader I cannot see myself violating the GtA and forcing a scout in that way.

        • miranthis: I don’t see where it says blue cards are not required …

          The bubble in 7.0.0.2 states: “Though it may not have 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 Design and Development Department.”

          I interpret that as saying we must use blue cards, and blue cards of their design. Now: how they intend to enforce this I don’t know since nobody beyond the unit level ever sees the card.

        • Doug, in our council the Application for Merit Badge portion of the Blue Card is turned in to the council with the advancement report.

    • This has actually been the policy in our Council for several years. As a Scoutmaster I am given a list of all Merit Badge Councilors at both the District as well as Council level. This list is updated regularly and it is sent to all Scoutmasters through our District.

      As a Scoutmaster, when the Scout asks me for a blue card and contact information for a councilor we discuss several things. Does he know what the requirements are? Does he have the merit badge booklet? Why he wants to pursue that merit badge? I then pull out the list of councilors and provide the names of 3 to 4 which I personally know (if any). The Scout still sees the entire list. From there he selects the councilor he wants to work with.

      Nothing additional on my plate there since I’m already required to discuss the merit badge with the Scout anyway.

      Once the Scout completes the merit badge they bring me the completed blue card and we have another conversation. I’ll ask what they learned that they didn’t know before they started, if they had fun and whether they would recommend the merit badge to others. I also ask about their experience dealing with the councilor. This information helps me determine whether to continue to recommend that particular councilor or perhaps start recommending them.

      I have had Scouts come to me with the name of someone they wanted to work with before seeing the list. I always confirm the person is on the list. Yes, I’ve had an issue where the person the Scout wanted to work with was not on the current list, having been dropped due to not completing the Youth Protection Training when it was due. I did not allow the Scout to work with this councilor for this reason.

      • H. David Pendleton // April 23, 2015 at 3:50 pm // Reply

        Rick: Glad to see you counseling your Scouts. My son just hands the SM/ASM the Blue Card filled out & he signs it. No counseling. Our council has the MBC list on line & working at the district/council level, I know many MBCs personally. My son has never had an issue finding a MBC, but wish the unit would go through the motions of counseling him anyway.

      • I wish our district and council keep a current list of MB counselors but you are only required to take the Merit badge counselor class, fill out the application with which merit badges you are willing to counsel and then the paperwork falls into the a black hole. There is not a district or counsel list maintained. I am MB counselor for 5 MB’s, I have the card where I took the class and a copy of my application but beyond that I can’t prove or have anything from council that I am really officially a merit badge counselor.
        Also when my son wants to take a MB, he prefers to pick his own counselor who he knows, trusts and actually knows the subject being worked on. I refuse to counsel my own child, I feel that is not right because that opens up a whole can of worms that can be avoided unless it is a MB that I can teach to several scouts at one time. We have several nature centers and museums in our area that offer merit badge classes through out the year. Several scouts like doing the classes there because on the observation study part it makes things available to them. Scouts living in apartments need a place that they can see, touch and observe nature on some of the badges.
        If the SM assigns a MB counselor not connected to the nature center then they have no where to do their 30-90 day observations.

      • As our district Advancement Chair, we have developed a list of MB counselors and the badges they ‘teach’. This list is sent out to all our Scoutmasters and is updated quarterly. However, this list is just badges and names of Counselors, it doe not include their contact information. Only myself and my Merit badge coordinator have the contact information. I may have their emails and mailing addresses. But when the scoutmaster contacts us for their contact information, we only provide them with their phone number. We want the boy to ;talk’ to the counselor, not email him/her. As to where the counselor lives, that is between the counselor and the boy. I do try to get a counselor close to where the boy lives, not across the other side of the district, which can be as far as 8 miles away.

        • H. David Pendleton // April 24, 2015 at 6:28 am //

          Our council has the MB Counselor list on their website. It use to contain both a phone number & an email address. I see in the latest version they have now gone only with the phone number to force the Scout to call & not email.

          I’ve been a MB Counselor for over 5 years now in the council. I’m still waiting for the first Scout to call me out of the Blue to work on a MB. I might throw a parade when that happens.

      • What happens if the scout wants to use a counselor outside of you district? He will not be on your list but is a mb counselor.

    • This takes us back a few years where the list got printed and a copy circulated to every unit in the district. The SM tacked that list to the troop bulletin board or checked it into the troop library. It’s really not a bad way to operate, and gives your Librarian a job of significant importance.

      Actually, with the new registration process you could have a customizable list with counselors available district wide and those available only to your unit.

    • I am ASM in charge of Advancement in my troop and I let the scouts know all of the counselors we have for the Mb in question. That way they can still make the choice of who they go to.

      As for your other point, when you signed up to be an MB Counselor, did you check off that you will teach to other troops or just your own? If you checked off for others than your name should be on the MB Counselor list from your council.

      • http://www.theravendistrict.org/Documents/Merit_Badge.pdf
        Our list is online and has not been updated since 2012, I don’t think there is anyone that wants the job of updating it so most of the people on it aren’t active anymore. If you ask for an updated list, there isn’t one.

        • MB counselors are 1 year positions. In our council they must renew mid-year using the adult BSA member application form and MB counselor information form 34405, http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34405.pdf

          The council registrar forwards the MB information form to the district advancement committee which in our district has a member of their committee who maintains the MB counselor list for the district. This list is sent monthly to unit leaders with counselors who do not have current youth protection training are dropped from the list.

          So to find current MB counselor information I would work my way up the information chain asking the following for help:

          District Advancement and Recognition Chair
          District Program Chair
          District Chair
          District Executive
          Council Registrar

          Scoubook recently acquired by BSA and expected to be launched in August after further integration with BSA data systems currently maintains unit MB lists based on input from the unit.

    • This sounds like a ‘district problem’. Encourage your district executive to put together a group (after all, it’s only an hour a week) to update the list of MBC’s and locate qualified volunteers to work with the scouts. The list should be distributed to the SM’s. We have a project exactly like this underway in our area. This is not going to be a quick project, but a year from today is sooner than a year from tomorrow.

      All MBC’s (or prospective MBC’s) should fill out a BSA application with ‘code 42’ – even those who are already registered scouters. This allows the BSA version of a background check – the form has a box that the prospective MBC will checkoff on whether they are willing to work with scouts from one unit or district-wide.

      If a scout wants to earn one of the ‘obscure’ badges, we are doing him a disservice by having someone who may not have practical knowledge of the subject doing the work with them.

      • It’s a district problem, but not for the paid personnel. The District Advancement and Recognition Committee Chair is responsible. He in turn is responsible to the District Chair, who reports to the Council President.

  5. Interesting that a Board of Review could be conducted via video conferencing yet the Scoutmaster Conference has to be face-to-face. The language should be the same. Either both are allowed in certain limited circumstances or neither should be allowed. Why the difference?

    So “In those rare situations where it is unreasonable to expect a Scout to travel long distances, or to wait several months, it is permissible to use videoconferencing.” for a Board of Review, why should we “expect a Scout to travel long distances, or to wait several months” for a Scoutmaster Conference?

    I’m not speaking to Scoutmaster Conferences / Boards of Review for the ranks of Life and below, though due to timing issues Star and Life could also warrant the use of the video conferencing option under limited circumstances. Mainly Eagle as this can be complicated by Scouts leaving the local area prior to their 18th birthday.

    As a Scoutmaster I’ve never even considered conducting a Scoutmaster Conference via video conferencing. They have always been done face-to-face and I would think really hard before I’d offer to do one otherwise.

    The same language used to outline why Scoutmaster Conferences should be face-to-face can be applied to Boards of Review, just like the reasons for allowing a video conference Board of Review can apply to a Scoutmaster Conference.

    • John Solomon // April 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm // Reply

      Perhaps an example may best answer this. A couple years ago I sat on an Eagle board of review via Skype for a young man who in the time between submitting his paperwork and it being approved, his father’s job changed and his family relocated to Europe. Surely we wouldn’t advocate required he fly back for his board of review. A scoutmaster conference is different and serves a different purpose than a board of review and really should be face to face.

    • You took the words out of my mouth; I just read something about the Great Alaska Council, where without the technology of Skype and the like, they’d be unable to service the youth.

    • Text or IM is on-line but not face to face and I’ll bet never appropriate for this. Phone is live but you cannot see the face, . Skype IS face to face and LIVE/real time as it is a live video link, but it is on-line. This section seem to be written by someone unfamiliar with common technology.

      • As a longtime user of Skype(tm), I helped craft that portion of the Guide, Miranthis. Skyping is a LOT different than having that Scout personally look me in the face and explain to him how he’s done his best over the last period; or sharing with me how he felt after going on the first campout with us; or why he can’t tolerate Mr. Scott because he comes to Scouts right after work and he smells like the dump truck he works out of.

        Yes, he can say all of those things and express them via Skyping with me; is it a personal interactive communication? Perhaps not. It is not the same thing as that Scout sitting there and telling me *in person*, which is the entire intent of the Scoutmaster/Mentors’ Conference.

        Perhaps in time technology will get better and we can adjust that a bit to allow Skype (or whatever the next thing going by then) to allow us to interact with our Scouts. But sitting together in a room, visible to others from a distance but allowing us a bit of privacy, would allow Scouts to share with his Scoutmaster (me) elements comprising his understanding of his current steps in Scouting.

        I talk with my Sweetie every evening via Skype (she’s in Minnesota; I’m wherever I happen to be…Tennessee, Kentucky, Europe…) and we find it a good way to say “in synch” with each other …until the communications link gets bad and then it’s bad.

        Boards of Review, I don’t have an issue with mainly because those are typically held at locations which *were made* or *designed* or *are equipped* for multimedia/distance communication via Skype(tm) or it’s cousins or wannabees.

        • Bryan Wendell // April 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm //

          Well said as usual, Mike.

        • Kevin Dowley // April 23, 2015 at 11:20 pm //

          I had previously read that the Scoutmaster Conference is not required to be the last item before a BoR. It can be anytime during the rank advancement process. Maybe it could be done face to face before the youth leaves the area (and all the other requirements are completed).

        • I get what you’re saying, and you’re right in an absolute sense, but as a practical matter two people on skype can adequately communicate what needs to communicated in a scoutmaster conference. Technology doesn’t need to be feared, and we should adapt.

    • My question as well. With the technology the way it is a video conference can be “the next best thing to being there” as they say. The youth or the Scoutmaster would have someone else in the room as well so, how are they different?

    • The shortest answer I can suggest is simply a youth protection issue. Scoutmaster conferences are necessarily one-on-one, and the sort of privacy they require (while still in plain view of others) is not easy to achieve online.

      Boards of Review, on the other hand, include multiple adults, so there is no one-on-one contact.

  6. Regarding #1, when a requirement says “discuss”, for example, I have always told the scouts they may bring notes on a worksheet, but they can’t just read the notes to me, we will have a discussion. Surely we want them to have looked into the topic beforehand, and allowing the use of notes IMHO encourages that.
    Am I wrong?

    • H. David Pendleton // April 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm // Reply

      I think that using the sheet for notes is fine. The Scout can’t just turn in the written work & get “credit” for meeting the requirement. If it says, “discuss” that means an oral conversation with the MBC not a written sentence/paragraph.

      • Unless it says oral discussion we must allow written discussions, too. We have them everyday via email, letters and even newspapers are a form of written discussion regarding an event(s). You can also “show” through written exhibits on a worksheet. You can also “demonstrate” through written examples. You can and do “discuss” information, ideas, opinions, etc., about (something) in writing or in speech.

        I clearly get the intent on discouraging worksheets to increase more Adult Association however lets ensure we do so at the best interest of the Scout in line with the Mission of BSA.

        • H. David Pendleton // May 1, 2015 at 11:12 am //

          Alan: The GTA addresses this issue specifically saying that “discuss” for the purposes of the Merit Badge Program & Advancement, written ‘”discussion” is not authorized. Specifically 7.0.4.8 “Unofficial Worksheets and Learning Aids
          Worksheets and other materials that may be of assistance in earning merit badges are available from a variety of places including unofficial sources on the Internet and even troop libraries. Use of these aids is permissible as long as the materials can be correlated with the current requirements that Scouts must fulfill. Completing“worksheets” may suffice where a requirement calls for
          something in writing, but this would not work for a requirement where the Scout must discuss, tell, show, or demonstrate, etc. Note that Scouts shall not be
          required to use these learning aids in order to complete a merit badge.”

          We can parse the definition from Websters, but BSA has made it plain that they want an oral “discussion” when it says discuss.

  7. T. Scarborough // April 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm // Reply

    Wow. #’s 1 & 7 should cause some squawking. 🙂 At least in our council. (but I am glad to see them!)

  8. Yeah! FINALLY! Section 7.0.3.0 is awesome! Summer camp merit badges as currently conducted must cease, thanks to the 2015 Guide to Advancement. I can’t wait to see the changes that our camps will introduce to finally comply with BSA rules regarding merit badges! (that’s sarcasm… we all know the BSA summer camps will continue to offer their poor and inadequate merit badge instruction in large groups reminiscent of school, just as they have always done.)

    • It does not say that. See section 7.0.3.2 “Group Instruction”.

      7.0.3.0 just defines the vision and the ideal. It’s a “should” and a “preferred”. Group instruction is allowed given new criteria in 7.0.3.2.

      I will give you … camp MBs should improve.

      • ah, so summer camps will continue to set the model for large group instruction that volunteers will emulate because they see it done at summer camp. Summer camp will continue to set the standard by lowering the bar so that every scout sitting on his hands falling asleep while a 15 year old counselor drones on receives their little merit badge at the end of the week. Why am I not surprised?

        • I’m not sure what position you hold or even if you hold one. How about instead of talking trash about the summer camp programs, step up and volunteer to teach merit badges at summer camp. If you have a problem, “be prepared” with a solution. Summer camp is what it is and my son comes home from camp with partials all the time because the requirements couldn’t be met at summer camp. It sounds like your may need to direct your issues to your council.

  9. #7 “Merit badge instruction should be small in scale”

    What a great improvement. Mind you it’s a “should” and a “recommendation” of the preferred and the vision of the program.

    Glad to see it written.

  10. Cheryl Dorwin // April 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm // Reply

    For #6, if the Scouts (and other adults involved) if you don’t have access to an online listing of counselors, how the heck are you going to know if somebody is an authorized counselor or not? Neither BSA or our council (NCAC) issues the counselors any kind of card or anything in response to their putting in an application – so most of the time the counselors themselves don’t even know if they’ve ever been approved until they show up on the online District MC list. Which requires a password to get to, so what’s the problem? So now what?
    On #7, while I don’t necessarily disagree, I hope somebody has a plan in place to quadruple the Merit Badge Counselors for those badges frequently taught in larger groups (like the Citizenship badges). The process for approving MBC’s is unnecessarily burdensome as it is and many good candidate potential counselors get frustrated and quit before they get through it all. Personally, I don’t see the issue with the instruction coming in larger groups, as long as the actual fulfillment process (signing off the blue card) is done in a much more personal fashion. I’ve never felt that a scout sitting in a class fulfilled any requirement by itself.

    • It is your districts responsibility to provide your troop with a list. See 3.0.0.2 District Advancement Committee Responsibilities in chapter 3.

      • Cheryl Dorwin // April 25, 2015 at 9:35 am // Reply

        I’m told that our Council has delegated that to the Districts – which we do in a twice yearly published list on the District web site. Which requires a password, so I personally don’t have a problem being on a list out there.

    • I get 2 BSA cards from my council every year…one for District Committee Member at large (my ‘highest’ registered level) and MB Counselor. I just assumed all councils did that. I know they will not issue a separate on for my troop and pack registered positions, using only the “highest” one, but the MC card comes out every year.

      • our council only gives us a card that says committee member, we don’t get one for MB counselor, just the card we received in class but it does not list the MB’s that we can counsel. Our district nor council has a list of counselors and we are one of the largest councils.

        • Michael // May 6, 2015 at 6:49 pm //

          I understand that you get one card for your highest role. If you are a Committee Member at the district or council level, you only get one card.

    • This is very valid. I’ve been registered as a leader for several years, and as a counselor also for the past few … but when I first did the training and turned in my MB counselor paperwork … the computer system dropped my regular registration and turned me into ‘just’ a counselor … dropped my Scouting subscription and everything. Very annoying! Plus I have no identifying paperwork to show I’m a counselor. I’ve given up on registering for that at all, and just notify the troop the badges I’m qualified for. Even then, in ones where I would be the best expert available, no one ever contacts me … because no one knows to contact me. It’s not a very uniform system. Nor do I ever know which ones my son should contact … usually he picks someone that might know the subject, or signs up for the class at a district event, and then informs his SM.

      • Cheryl Dorwin // April 25, 2015 at 9:42 am // Reply

        Kristen – exactly my point!! I’m guessing a lot of these comments are coming from folks in smaller troops where it’s possible to handle things like the BSA is proposing. We live in the highly populated suburbs of DC and have a troop of over 70 boys. Many troops around here have over a 100! Expecting the SM to handle all of the required troop management without some delegating would be at best, impractical. That’s part of what the ASM’s and Committee members are for – things like managing the MBC list. And guess what – we delegate things (with supervision) to the older boys! We work hard to make sure all hands are properly trained and adhering to the principals of Scouting – but folks, running a big troop – it takes a village!

  11. Section 10.1.0.2

    “This new form applies register a person who will remain as a youth member beyond the age of eligibility.”

    Huh? “…applies register a person”?

    • Bryan Wendell // April 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm // Reply

      Oops, that’s my bad. Fixed. Thanks!

  12. I am interested in the “should” in item 7. Small scale counseling. We have a very robust merit badge college where 700-1000 scouts attend classes with up to 20 scouts. The wording seems to say this is discouraged, but does this change prohibit Districts/ councils from running merit badge colleges?

    • Bryan Wendell // April 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm // Reply

      I don’t see anything to say they’re prohibited. Just discouraged. Small-scale instruction is “the recommended best practice,” according to the 2015 GTA.

      • Don’t forget — merit badge colleges & summer camp merit badge instruction are subject to the guidelines and approval of your local council’s advancement committee. Their role is to implement the Guide to Advancement in your council.

        • Tom Linton // April 25, 2015 at 9:58 pm //

          And don’t forget that many councils elect to ignore the rules and award merit badges without candidates passing the requirements as individuals or, many times, even collectively as classes.

          Sound familiar?

          “Just because you were doing something wrong for a long time doesn’t mean it’s right. We’re Boy Scouts, and once we become aware of the rules. we follow the rules — even if we’ve been ignorant of them or there’s been an intentional disregard in the past.”

    • ASH,
      See section 7.0.3.2 Group Instruction in Chapter 7 of the new Guide to Advancement; it should answer your questions.

    • your merit badge college should be discouraged. Classes of 20 scouts for merit badges is not in keeping with the philosophy of how merit badge counseling should be done.

      • H. David Pendleton // April 24, 2015 at 6:37 am // Reply

        I was a MB Counselor for our district’s last MB Forum. The coordinator asked me what the number of Scouts I would be comfortable with and told her 12 for mine-American Heritage & American Cultures. I ended up with 9 Scouts for the former & only 4 Scouts for the latter.

        Between the 2 Saturday morning sessions four weeks apart, they all had work to do on their own. Each Scout did the requirements as written, nothing more & nothing less. It sometimes got monotonous hearing all the Scouts discuss the “importance” of the Declaration of Independence, but I had to draw out each Scout to “discuss” it to meet the requirements.

        My point is that some MB events will need to relook the size of their groups and/or add additional MB Counselors so the Counselor/Scout ratio reflects the new GTA’s intent.

  13. Tom Linton // April 23, 2015 at 3:54 pm // Reply

    As most know, a good many council Summer Camps have long run merit badge mills where certain badges are given out with no effort — indeed no opportunity — to have the candidates pass the requirements. If the candidates attended the classes and were more-or-less awake, they got the unearned badges.

    Questioning such fraud on the spot, however politely or tentatively, is not cheerfully received by the staff or the “professional” higher ranks of the council. Reporting such fraud to the councils who put it on has no effect that I have noticed.

    That some volunteers want Minimum Impact/Maximum Pretense Advancement does not change the fact that council leadership and some members of the professional service are up to their necks in facilitating this disgrace.

    If BSA is unwilling to act to stop this systematic violation of Scouting values through the camp certification process or otherwise, how about at least encouraging units to boycott such camps?

    Fewer MB’s given out? Good! They are not the objective. Good people are. What are we teaching the Scouts – including the youth staff?

    Remember this from Emerson, as used in an NYLT AV: “Your actions speak so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

    • I see no way out of this mess except by informed and inspired scouters and parents across the nation who will read some sort of “What to Expect When Your Boy Takes a Merit Badge” flyer and take it to heart as they evaluate programs.

      • There is a way out of the summer camp merit badge giveaway program. A national moratorium on summer camps offering merit badges. I’m 100% serious. Kids should go to summer camp for a fun week of activities. Most summer camps don’t have the facilities to offer a fun week of activities – nor the training – nor the staff. So instead they give away merit badges to all who enter their gates. The only way to stop the current charade is to stop it nationally. Put in requirements that merit badge counselors should be 21 years old. Merit badge counselors should have expertise in the field. Merit badges take longer than 4 hours to complete. A scout should have some level of proficiency when they have been properly counseled in a given merit badge. The national council of the BSA could fix this if they wanted to. They simply have chosen to continue to ignore it.

        • kimberly // April 23, 2015 at 8:20 pm //

          I think if merit badges weren’t offered at camp then a lot of boys will choose to spend their money going to church camp instead. Church camp has swimming, camping, rifle, shotgun, and archery plus tons of other fun stuff. My son can’t afford to go to both scout camp and church camp so he chooses the scout camp for the merit badges. There are usually incompletes to finish after camp so the merit badges aren’t “freebies” I guess it depends on where you go to scout camp at.

        • Hi Kimberly – you write that church camp offers ” swimming, camping, rifle, shotgun, and archery plus tons of other fun stuff. ” That’s what boy scout camps should offer. It is very sad that your son would choose not to come to a boy scout if there were no merit badges. That sure sounds to me like your camp is not offering “tons of other fun stuff”. And I would agree. Most scout camps are failing at fun. Most are just summer schools programs with a few songs and a couple of laughs in the evening. Ho hum.

        • The simpler answer is the one given in the Guide: Promote a culture in which a “partial” (some requirements not completed) is a perfectly acceptable and expected outcome for a merit badge worked on at camp. If there is no pressure to finish the merit badge during that week at camp, both Scouts and camp staff can focus on the requirements that are best completed in the camp environment and do them right. Then plenty of opportunities can be offered to help Scouts complete those merit badges at home during the summer and fall.

        • Dave – I understand the frustration. Many scouts would be unable to advance or learn new skilks without summer camp. Not everyone lives in an area with pools or lakes … my boys would have missed swimming, lifesaving, small boat sailing, kayaking, rowing and watersports merit badges if it weren’t for BSA summer camps. My boys have fallen in love with the water because of summer camp merit badge opportunities.

          What about inner city scouts that do not have access to parks and outdoor activities as rural troops? They may miss out on pioneering, orienteering, cycling, climbing, etc merit badges.

          I work at a BSA council summer camp. I can see where it coukd be easy to slip into a “merit badge mill.” But know that not all BSA camps are such. We take great pride in not teaching “classes” but have sessions to teach skills. We choose and hire staff that instruct using the EDGE method that want to help impart knowledge and skills to other scouts.

          Know though that it has become more and more difficult to find good staff AND good campers. In this age of selfishness and digital addiction, many scouts coming to camp have a great apathy towards learning and many potential staff members are not willing to sacrifice their summers to make less than minimum wage dealing with self-absorbed campers.

          We need the Boy Scouts of America more than ever in this nation. Thank you to all the scouts and scouters that do give up their summers to be role models and help instruct my scouts to be better men and citizens!

        • H. David Pendleton // April 24, 2015 at 6:50 am //

          I disagree with putting a specific time limit on a MB. Some take a lot longer than others. The Fingerprinting MB does not need to take 4 hours. The Gardening MB takes several months. Of my son’s 85 MBs, he says the toughest one to complete was Gardening. It took him 2 summers (about 16 months) to complete it. The first year he did not do enough weeding so he didn’t get enough of the vegetables to grow. He did a little better the second summer & was able to reach the required number of vegetables to maturity.

          Putting a 4-hour minimum does not mean the MB is being properly counseled and/or the Scouts are showing that they meet the requirements. If a Scout comes to camp with the prerequisites for a particular MB, it may be possible to complete the MB in a shorter time. Our camp is unique is that it is 10 days long so there are 6 “regular” days with 4 MB periods. Day 1 & 2 are arrival & departure. The Sunday, wherever it falls in the schedule, is Family Day & no MB periods that day. The day before departure is a make-up day for all MBs. MBs are either a 3-day or 6-day (3 contact hours or 6 contact hours) depending on the MB’s perceived difficulty. Leathercraft, Basketry, etc for the former & Lifesaving, Swimming, any shooting sport (archery, rifle, shotgun) & most of the Waterfront MBs for the latter. Due to the make-up day, this could become many more hours as the Scout could shoot at the rifle range for an extended period until they met the qualification standards.

          What needs to happened is: (1) Make sure camp MBs are more hands-on than lecture. (2) Create an environment where the expectation that going to camp will not result in an automatic MB. (3) Make sure that each Scout at Camp completes the requirements as written, nothing more & nothing less. (4) Allow the Scouts to feel that not completing the MB at camp is ok & encourage them to seek out a MB Counselor upon their return to their unit to complete it.

  14. 9. Youth observers aren’t allowed at boards of review …

    To be clear, that’s for Boy Scout ranks.

    It’s basically the other way around on boards of review for venturing awards. Select adults may attend but only speak when spoken to!
    So, if you have boys who want to sit on BoR’s, you know where to send them. 😉

  15. Steve Pendry // April 23, 2015 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    Another item of note: the current online version of the Service Project Workbook is also new. Download it from the Advancement Resources page and try to find the section called Final Plan. It’s not called that anymore. It’s now Eagle Scout Service Project Plan. So much for “Final” – looks like a wise move.

  16. John Merrell // April 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm // Reply

    Advancement Chairman – Primary Responsibilities. Produce and maintain a district merit badge directory.

    Unit merit badge counselor lists shouldn’t be available to Scouts online

    Section: 7.0.2.3

    What’s new: Units can (and maybe even should) establish a list of registered merit badge counselors. But Scouts should get those names and contact info from a Scoutmaster, not from a list made available online.

    Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: “Due to concerns about merit badge counselor privacy, and since Scouts should receive the names and contact information from the Scoutmaster, unit counselor lists should not be made available to Scouts online.”

    What now is the procedure to register a merit badge counselor? All district merit badge counselor applications should go through the District Advancement Chair and forwarded to the Council Advancement Chair. Has this been changed? I know this is not a conflict.

    • Cheryl Dorwin // April 25, 2015 at 9:59 am // Reply

      I still think that as long as a list published online within a password protected environment such as a troop or district website, I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean come on, almost all of us have our contact information listed and easily accessible in 10 other spots! Frankly this is just creating one more unnecessary hoop for the boys to jump through and making it hard for them to find out how to move forward. No wonder so many quit.

      • I agree that a scout should not have access to a district or council list online. However, I agree with Cheryl, the unit list published online; password protected; and sorted by badge. This is going to be the exact same information that the Scoutmaster gives him; from the same location. The unit online list is a “live” document, changing as counselors are added and deleted. If a scout cannot find a counselor for a specific badge from the local unit; then he involves the troop (Scoutmaster, Advancement Chair, etc); and ask them to get a list from the district/council. Also mentioned in other comments, we are a troop of over 70 scouts, and over 50 MB counselors. Asking the Scoutmaster to provide MB Counselor lists by badge for every single scout (most of which are working on 3-4 badges at a time); when would the Scoutmaster have time to do anything else? Not to mention, we are not practicing good environmental conservation when a Scoutmaster has to print each of these lists to give to the scouts. It was mentioned that he delegate that responsibility; we have – to the Advancement Chair… who maintains the lists and creates passwords for each individual scout; so that they may obtain this information online. The Scoutmaster is still responsible for giving a scout a new blue card, and counsels him as to what they are about to start; but then instructs him to go to Troop password protect website to obtain a list of counselors for that specific badge. As mentioned before (in reference to face-to-face; and Skype for Scoutmaster Conferences and Eagle BoR’s) that the writers of the new Guide to Advancement don’t completely understand online.

  17. John D. SUllivan // April 23, 2015 at 7:30 pm // Reply

    It is interesting to hear about all the variations in how councils/districts do things. Ours has always used the standard blue card. At least twice a year our district emails out two lists of currently approved merit badge counselors to all unit leaders (pdf’s: one sorted by merit badge and one sorted by counselor name). This lists include the counselor’s address and phone number. If a Scout needs a counselor for a badge for which there’s not a counselor in our district, the SM can contact the office to find out if there is one in another district.

    We are also the only district in our council that still holds a merit badge workshop. The typical maximum class size is 10, but counselors can and often do reduce that maximum. For badges like Citizenship, the Scouts are told up front that they will not complete the entire badge in one session. The counselors agree to have individual or group follow up sessions later as needed. We have had to drop some counselors and some badges if the quality wasn’t there. I truly believe it is not a mill.

    I have taught first aid this way for several years. Max class size is 20 and we have 2 instructors. We break them into two groups and trade off every hour, alternating between the dry “explain” topics and the hands-on, active “demonstrate” ones. Scouts are emailed details of how to prepare for the class; i.e., they are supposed to know the material before the workshop and will be tested, not taught at the workshop. Prerequisite is prior completion of #1 (signed off on all first aid requirements for Tenderfoot through First Class). Scouts prepare and bring a troop/family first aid kit. Scouts are give a list of skills and told to prepare to teach one using EDGE. It is a frantic 4 hours, but about 1/2 to 2/3 of the Scouts earn the badge. The rest have to follow up later to finish. Occasionally I get irate parents who think their Scout should be given the badge if they go to the workshop, but the Scouts all seem to understand that they need to earn it. It is a lot of work to prepare and follow up, but I think it works and does not short-circuit the system or dilute the requirements.

    It can be done. But I have also seen other clinics and camps where it is a joke. It would have been physically impossible for Scouts to have done all the requirements. It is up to unit leaders and other volunteers to police the process and for the professionals to support their efforts.

  18. Scouting Gnome // April 23, 2015 at 7:35 pm // Reply

    Hoping for clarification on the rules related to Sea Scouts and Venturers.

    I would be very curious in the rationale for this decision. I can only see the Venturing awards supplementing anything that goes on in Sea Scouts. Sea Scouts is very skills based. Venturing is oriented towards a leadership development model. They complement one another quite nicely _if_ the ship chooses to do so. Additionally, the Trust, Ranger, and Quest awards complement the program nicely as well.

    But here is where I am really struggling. Within our council, we do not have enough active ships for a council level officers association. As such, youth from our Ships participate in the Venturing Officers Association. They are active participants in council level Venturing events. With this new rule, is National basically saying that these scouts are to be excluded from participation?

    On the surface, this seems to be a decision based to a greater extent on organizational silos within the BSA than strengthening the overall program experience for 14-21 year youth.

    Is National really saying that you need to create a dual registered Venturing Crew just to participate at this level?

    • Hi Gnome!

      You wrote in part: “But here is where I am really struggling. Within our council, we do not have enough active ships for a council level officers association. As such, youth from our Ships participate in the Venturing Officers Association. They are active participants in council level Venturing events. With this new rule, is National basically saying that these scouts are to be excluded from participation?”

      Not at all! The text in the Guide is intended to explain that that, as far as ADVANCEMENT (not program, to which the Venturing Officers’ Association or VOA, is a part of a Council’s PROGRAM) is concerned, Venturing has a “trail” and Sea Scouting has a different “trail”.

      One can go back and forth along the two “trails” but at some point (Able in Sea Scouting; Pathfinder in Venturing) the trail somewhat narrows as the Venturer or Sea Scout starts concentrating on earning that program’s highest rank.

      The VOA exists to support ALL of the older youth programs (Venturing, Sea Scouting AND in those Councils which allow it, Learning for Life/Exploring) units within the Council. It provides leadership and training opportunities and joint or individual programs/activities for older youth to participate/lead within.

      “On the surface, this seems to be a decision based to a greater extent on organizational silos within the BSA than strengthening the overall program experience for 14-21 year youth.”

      No, what the intent should be to put local Council Advancement folks on notice that they cannot use a “single standard” for Venturing and Sea Scouting advancement any more — they must use a Venturing “standard” for Venturers and a Sea Scouting “standard” for Sea Scouts. And neither should be the Boy Scout “standard” used for Eagle. This becomes very important as we turn the corner and start having Reviews for Summit. Quartermaster has a separate review mechanism which worked well in the past and continue to work well today.

      “Is National really saying that you need to create a dual registered Venturing Crew just to participate at this level?”

      Not in the slightest.

      • Scout Gnome // April 27, 2015 at 9:30 am // Reply

        I appreciate the comments. But, as it is written, I disagree with your assessment.

        From the Guide to Advancement:

        11. 4.4.0.0: Sea Scouts are not Venturers.

        This seems to go well beyond the implications for advancement you mention above. If the BSA only means to impact advancement / awards, then they should state so specifically. But, as it is written, the implications appear to be more broad-base.

        A couple of thoughts…

        1. I understand the difference in the Advancement Trails. Venturing has a Leadership Development Model whereas Sea Scouts is more topic-specific. The two actually complement each other nicely. I don’t see the need for this separation (Sea Scout trails follow Sea Scout traditions and Venturing work follows Venturing Traditions), but OK.

        2. Where it gets interesting. If it is the intent of Sea Scout Ships to participate in the Venturing Officer Association, then they need to state that specifically. Otherwise, we’ll be in a predicament where (as it is currently written) it could be interpreted that Venturing participants are eligible for Venturing Leadership Awards but Sea Scout participants are not.

        Overall, I think it is important that we as Adults realize that a major reason scouts at this level are active is social. Doing anything to decrease interaction between Venturers and Sea Scouts would be an unfortunate consequence.

        • I would hold off making any changes until after the National meeting at the end of May. There will be a vote then on the separation of Sea Scouting and Venturing (which is sure to pass I am told) but also a clarification of what that means.

    • Thanks, Mike. From a boots-on-the-ground perspective, it is very hard to keep those VOAs at critical mass. The different development tracks don’t help that. But I don’t think unifying the tracks would help either.

  19. Don’t understand 13. What is this referring to??

    • I believe 13 is referring to scouts with special needs who are asking to remain in scouting after the age of 18.

    • Scouting Gnome // April 24, 2015 at 8:07 am // Reply

      @Dave below: Exactly. Here is the actual text from the document:

      “Young people approved for registration beyond the age of eligibility may continue working on advancement, including the Eagle Scout rank and Eagle Palms, for as long as they continue to be so registered.”

      This extension requires extensive (but it does not appear onerous) documentation that must be considered at the council level for approval.

  20. Advancement is not rocket science. Perhaps the BSA should write the guide to advancement for their audience, which seems more and more evident could not graduate high school.

    I had a fella who just joined Scouting tell me that Scouts don’t need to talk to a Merit Badge Counselor because of the workbooks.

    I explained they aren’t official and he wanted to see the words written in the G2A. And we still have council folks who believe that you can hold up an Eagle Candidate because of reference letters.

    • Well, answering these sorts of questions is exactly why the Guide of Advancement is written the way it is. Use it as a resource.

  21. I wonder how these new rules square with the merit badge counselor search features in the new online BSA product, Scoutbook.com. The software has a (IMHO, great) feature that lets a Scout or leader search from available MBCs that have registered for a particular MB. Active MBCs in the system have to have up-to-date registrations, including YPT. The MBC list would be uploaded by the DE. Since Scoutbook.com interfaces with both the online registration and the training parts of Scoutnet, it will be able to ensure that all MBCs referenced in the system are active and have their YPT every 24 months.

    Of course, that is an online system, and one only available if the MBC has indicated that he or she is willing to teach to any available Scout on the MBC application. I hope that it continues to be allowed, as one of my frustrations as Scoutmaster is being able to find a counselor for a boy that wants to take a particular Merit Badge.

    • This is a question for the Scoutbook folks, but my guess would be that they would have to modify their code.

  22. I think it is appropriate for some merit badges to be taught as a group especially the ones that require lots of reading. It helps the boys to listen and they could still fill out the paper work and do the assifpgned tasks. As Advancement Chair an dine who conducts the BOR some boys come in and we ask questions they can’t even answer simple questions. I think some MB counselors just put a stamp of approval rather than leading the boys and really finding out if ey really know the requirements. We have an adult who helps me with keeping an up todate list of all MB counselors and knows how many boys each one has, etc. our boys don’t choose their own.

    Another big issue that I have is Eagle projects. There are really no set guidelines on the complexity of them and boys wait till the last possible time to get them completed. Some boys turn Eagle at 14 and that is young for some because they aren’t mature enough and don’t have the knowledge of some of the requirements in Family Life, personal management.

    • The average of Eagle is still over 17, so I don’t think there is a problem of turning out a lot of Eagles who are too young to understand.

      There is a lot of guidance on what makes up a good project in the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. The Scout and their leader should read it over before selecting a project.

    • H. David Pendleton // April 27, 2015 at 12:20 pm // Reply

      According to the GTA, the SM is suppose to recommend a MB Counselor. If the Scout, however, wants to select another MB Counselor, they can as long as the council has approved him/her for the MB that is being counseled. The exception is that the troop can put a maximum number of MBs that a Scout can earn from any one MB Counselor. But it must be enforced for all MB Counselors & all Scouts in the troop. Trying to enforce it for Bobby & not Billy is just a method that the SM is using to circumvent the system and/or keep someone from counseling or a MB or force the Scout to go to the adult’s preferred MB Counselor.

  23. LindaShipGirl // April 25, 2015 at 3:57 am // Reply

    Dear Bryan, Sea Scout manual says the Boatswain (youth leader) leads the Bridge of Review (aka Board of Review in a troop/team) with adult committee members up to three no more than six, same rule. Did the no youth apply to Sea Scouts too? I’m Advancement Chairman in our Ship. Please advise. Thx!!

    • Linda,

      What Bryan was referring to was Boy Scout boards of review, not Ship boards nor Venturing boards.

      The answer is in the Guide to Advancement section:
      4.4.2.4 Particulars for Apprentice Through Able Ranks
      After a Skipper conference, the youth advancing meets with the bridge of review made up of three to six members of the quarterdeck or ship committee.
      The boatswain serves as bridge of review chair, conducts the review according the BSA procedures, and reports results to the ship advancement coordinator.

      http://www.scouting.org/Home/GuideToAdvancement/MechanicsofAdvancement/SeaScout.aspx#4420

      I hope this helps

  24. Cheryl Dorwin // April 25, 2015 at 10:14 am // Reply

    I think the BSA missed a great opportunity to help us separate the MBC process of the boys having the knowledge made available to them (individually, in a class or online) from the process of their assimilating that information and being able to properly work with a MBC to share their new found knowledge and be ready for their blue card sign off. There’s nothing the matter with information being put out there to whatever sized group an instructor (who may or may not be a MBC) is comfortable working with.

    But unlike our school systems, our boys should not earn a MB simply by sitting in a class for any number of hours. It’s not the “information dessemimation” process that’s a problem, it’s the “confirmation of knowledge” that needs to be treated like the separate issues they should be.

    And several people above are very much correct – many of the BSA merit badges are only available to the boys in camp. Their home troops just don’t have access to the things needed to teach the badges.

    We teach WoodBadge and NYLT to groups of 45-50 people – why should MB be different?

    Finally – to shift to ALL badges being earned in small groups, where the heck are all of these newly needed MBC going to come from?? Is Boy Scouting going to survive a 50%+ cut in merit badges earned? With a down-the-road effect of substantially less boys being able to earn Eagle?

    Maybe it’s the right way to go, but I wonder if they’ve really thought through what the impact of this guideline will be on the long-term program.

    • Tom McFadden // April 25, 2015 at 11:32 am // Reply

      Wood Badge, & I ll ask, and all other advanced training is for adults, so teaching 4250 adults, most of whom have gone through scouting and a half the basic knowledge already is not a big deal. But teaching 4250 10 11 12 year old boy scouts citizenship in the world, or personal management, they won’t have the same attention span, life experience, skills, knowledge excetera that an adult would. Remember these are boys not little adults. even those going to nylt are older Scouts with more experience and interested in learning about leadership training, there not your 10 11 12 year olds, or the immature 15 and 16 year olds at every truth has. These are boys who have proven their leadership ability, and their maturity levels to the leadership before being sent to these programs.

      • The base unit of a Wood Badge Coure or an NYLT course is a patrol of six usually.

  25. In regards to Merit Badges, and specifically about MB at Summer Camps, a reminder on these portions in the Advancement Book:
    (since I can’t bold or underline, I’ve added –> for emphasis)

    1.0.1.0 (and repeated in 2.0.0.1)
    Regardless the program … where advancement takes place, it is nothing more and nothing less than one of several methods. It is a means toward accomplishing the Boy Scouts of America mission. –>It is not an end in itself.“Just show up and get the badge.”should not be modeled after a typical school classroom setting.The sort of hands-on interactive experience described here, with personal coaching and guidance, is hardly ever achieved in any setting except when one counselor works directly with one Scout and his buddy, or with a very small group. …<–

    … Large group and Web-based instruction, while perhaps efficient, do not measure up in
    terms of the desired outcomes with regard to learning and positive association with adults. …

    And of course section 7.0.3.2 Group Instruction … this whole section.

    • Hmm… a whole section of my post is missing. I had 4 or 5 other sections listed, too. Weird. Oh well.

  26. My son couldn’t wait to be a boy scout. He spent many an evening studging his handbook and reading about merit badges. He started teaching himself knots. He attended every program offered in our district and council as a cub scout Which included 3 webelos to boy scouts type weekends. In his first troop, when he went to his scoutmaster for his first blue card, he asked if he re ommended any certain merit badges first. My son told him which merit badges he was most interested in, and he told him no. So he asked for dog care, since he has been caring for his dog for over 5 years. Then the sm asked what counselor he had picked. My son had no idea who the counselors were, So he asked the sm for help. He was told to come back with a counselor. This when on for months. I had him contact our district and council to try and find a counselor. They sent him back to the sm, knowing what I just wrote. I ended up becoming a counselor and recruiting counselors. The sm, wanted any mb counselors to be from the troop. We ended up leaving that troop for a number of reasons, but I’ve found in our area, most counselors are troop only. So you end up neededing camp or merit bade colleges. my son couldn’t wait for camp, but yhat turned out to be 6 hours of classes Where they mostly just sat there filling out the worksheets with teenage counselors that had very little knowledge in the area. None of the classes used the mb books and a lot of corners were cut. My son came home (as did many of my friend’s scouts across the country) wanting to repeat the class somewhere else. We’ve now been to a number of camps in different councils, and this seems to be common. My son and I really thought that merit badges would be a chance to acquire real knowledge and some hand on experiences in each subject area. We live in an area rich with experts in many, if not most of the merit badge subjects, who would love to work with interested scouts, but they are never even asked.

    • Scout mom, my son found that after his first summer camp, it’s best to buy the merit badge books for the MB’s that he is interested in. He reads through the MB books first and then decides if he is ready to ask for his blue card and begin the badge. If he feels that it’s not as interesting as he thought it was or he’s not ready for it then he puts it back on the shelf and chooses something else. He has already chosen the MB’s that he is taking for this upcoming summer camp, he has read the books and is in the process of filling out the worksheets before camp. He likes to have completed worksheets for his own records for his boy scout binder. Some camp classes have rushed through things so he wants to be an active participant in the classes instead of sitting in class like a bump on a log filling in worksheets the whole time. A scout will get as much out of the class as he is willing to put into it. I do agree though there needs to be better MB counselor lists for the boys that don’t go to camps,
      In our troop each parent was asked to pick 5 merit badges they were willing to counsel, I attended the merit badge counselor class at the PowWow, I’m not sure how many other actually took a class or just filled out the application. When our district turns in MBC applications, I think they fall into a deep black hole because no list has been generated since 2012 and if you try call any of those listed on that list, they are no longer active. 🙁

  27. Unless it says oral discussion we must allow written discussions, too. We have them everyday via email, letters and even newspapers are a form of written discussion regarding an event(s). You can also “show” through written exhibits on a worksheet. You can also “demonstrate” through written examples. You can and do “discuss” information, ideas, opinions, etc., about (something) in writing or in speech.

    I clearly get the intent on discouraging worksheets to increase more Adult Association however lets ensure we do so at the best interest of the Scout in line with the Mission of BSA.

    • Writing a report on a worksheet is not discussing with your merit badge counselor, it is writing a report.

      • Sorry, I guess Merriam-Webster must be wrong and I guess this is not a discussion neither. I have been misguided for some time.

        Did you want to discuss the use of written material in relation to showing or demonstrating?

      • Oxford defines “discuss” as:

        Talk or write about (a topic) in detail, taking into account different ideas and opinions:

        in Chapter Six I discuss problems that arise in applying Darwin’s ideas

        Again, we have to be flexible based on the Scout unless it says, oral discussion.

        • Tom Linton // April 26, 2015 at 9:26 am //

          So writing a report is enough to “discuss” or “explain”?

        • Alan,

          BSA policy is very clear on this. “In Boy Scouting, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like ‘show,’ ‘demonstrate,’ or ‘discuss,’ then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice” Section: 4.2.0.1 of the Guide to Advancement.

          You may disagree with the policy, but when we all signed up as adult volunteers we agreed to abide by BSA policies. You can write to the National Advancement Team, but I think the intent here is that the Merit Badge Counselor and the Scout actually have a verbal (or sign language) discussion. It really can’t be any clearer I don’t think.

        • Tom Linton // April 26, 2015 at 10:11 am //

          If it says that a Scout, rather than the Scout and his counselor, is to “discuss” a topic, that clearly allows a written discussion. “Essay” tests are given routinely on that basis: “Discuss three reasons for the revolution.”

          I believe that result is unfortunate and probably not what BSA intends. I believe that the GTA and merit badge pamphlets, collectively should require are oral presentation where physically possible.

        • Most of the ‘discuss’ requirements say ‘discuss with your counselor…’

        • Tom Linton // April 26, 2015 at 10:51 am //

          I never looked at that issue as I assumed it was to be oral discussion unless it expressly called for written work product.

          I looked at “my” MB’s

          American Business requires:

          Explain x 6
          Tell x 5
          Describe x 3
          • Talk with one of the officers or staff.
          Chart
          Show its relationship
          Discuss and explain four ways
          Name five kinds of
          Keep a weekly record
          Draw an organizational chart
          • Run a small business involving a product or service for at least three months.
          • Keep records.
          • Do ONE of the following: Make an oral presentation
          Write a two-page biography about this person or make a short presentation to your counselor.

          Backpacking

          Discuss (not “with”)
          List
          Describe x 5
          Define
          Tell x 3
          Explain x 4
          Write x 2

          Wilderness Survival does not specify any oral presentation.

          I think I’ll stop now.

        • That is the definition of the term. We cannot add an assumed reqjuirement that it must be in English, Sign Language or spoken unless it clearly states in the requirements “oral”.

          Trust me I get the overall intentions of smaller groups, more one on one time. The major point of this discussion is to ensure we do not over push this intention and if a Scout is having difficulty with social anxiety, adult association, verbal expression, etc that we assume a discussion either oral or written is not acceptable, unless the requirements state orally discuss.

          This can also help as stated elsewhere in the 2015 Guide in permitting email and online discussion (such as this) with Lone Scouts or those at a considerable distance from counseling.

          To touch on Tom, written explanation is easier to visualize and must everything these days is explained in writing.

          Now, this might cause National to revisit merit badge requirements individually and make changes where they feel oral discussion is the only methed acceptablle then for those we cannot accept non verbal discussion.

        • Great examples Tom and could not agree more. I think you hit it right on with the general examples. Family Life it is great having an oral discussion as the plan for the family meeting to bounce off ideas and suggestions then if possible but again we cannot require a written discussion about the importance of fathers (something for them to reflect); however, by that time they just want the sign off and we cannot hold them hostage. Merit Badges like Community that state off in the first meeting with s very detailed discussion on numerous aspects would be time consuming for a Scout to write out a good discussion however if one so desired it would be interesting.

          I personally dislike worksheets and prefer notes. Use line paper, rephrase the statement to understand, prepare key points to your discussion along with concerns. Counseling is not one way classroom instructions and is a teaching experience for both the professional or Scouter and Scout.

          My hope is that Counselors use common sense in determining the level and type of discussions a Scout is able to process and get the most benefit without adding a personal agenda and using this code as backup. It only reinforces to do as written and aids are not suitable in some situations.

        • The big implied wording is always “with your counselor” for all requirements unless explicitly stated otherwise (i.e. with your family, with your troop, etc).

          If you use a worksheet, then the parallel is to have the counselor write a written response to which the scout provides a written response …. etc etc etc. … BUT … that sounds like an extremely dull merit badge experience.

          Perhaps if it’s email because the MBC and the scout are far apart and the MBC has special expertise, then it’s okay.

          Perhaps “tell” or “list” can be a uni-directional communication.

          But scouting and the merit badge program are supposed to be interactive, face-to-face experiences.

          Paper worksheets accomplish little to none of that.

  28. Tom Linton // April 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm // Reply

    Not sure how I missed it, but there is an official interpretation that gives some guidance:

    “‘What does that mean? Look for requirements with verbs like ‘discuss,’ ‘show,’ ‘tell,’ ‘explain,’ ‘demonstrate’ or ‘identify.’ Requirements like those aren’t meant to be completed by filling in a blank on some worksheet, says Chris Hunt, team leader of the BSA’s Content Management Team.”

  29. It would be nice if the first requirement in any merit badge was to actually read the merit badge book. I find that very few of the scouts that come to me to work on the merit badges actually even get the book (which is not a requirement).

    • I feel the same way, my son reads the merit badge book before asking to take the badge. Our troop has a library but he prefers to buy his own to keep with his worksheets so that he can reread them if he wants to. Some of the Eagle required MB books have good information that will be very informative when working on other MB’s. He does lend them to his friends if they want to borrow then since the troop has limited books available.

    • H. David Pendleton // April 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm // Reply

      There are now 137 MBs. This would force Scouts to purchase the MB Pamphlet from the Scout shop or get them from the Troop Library. The former would be cost prohibited for Scouts and their families on a limited budget. In the latter case, not every Troop Library has every MB Pamphlet.

      A year ago, my son was the Librarian/Historian for our troop as we are a small one and for that 6-month POR, the jobs were combined. My son went through the Troop’s MB Library and discovered that over 2/3 of them were out-of-date. Some were as over 10 years out-of-date such as the Atomic Energy MB. My son put the out-of-date ones in one cannister and only kept the current ones available for troop checkout.

      The troop still does not have a MB Pamphlet for every MB. I usually purchase the MB Pamphlet for my son who reads it before going to see his MBC or going to a MB event. Usually, he is the only one that has read the pamphlet based on the input (or lack of input) of the other Scouts. When he has earned the MB, he donates the MB pamphlet to the troop library so it is slowly growing again.

      As for Scouts not reading the MB pamphlet, especially at MB events, the MB Counselor needs to draw the Scouts out by asking open-ended questions. It’s not a lecture. I do the American Heritage MB & part of it is to discuss the flag. I have a picture of the various flags up on the screen, but don’t tell them, “In 1795, they added 2 stars & 2 stripes.” I ask the Scouts, “What is the difference between the 1776 & 1795 flag and why that has occurred. This generates discussion and that is what we want. I don’t give the Scouts credit just because they heard the discussion. When the “interaction” (class) is over, each Scout sits down with an American Heritage MB Counselor (myself or one of my Assistants-I usually have between 3 & 8 on hand). Each Scout then has to tell his MB Counselor something about the history of the flag to confirm they understand it & have met the requirement.

      Yes, reading the MB pamphlet would be ideal but it currently is not required. We just follow the 7th point of the Scout Law & do our best to see the Scouts meet the standard, nothing more & nothing less.

      • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

  30. Tom Linton // April 27, 2015 at 5:23 pm // Reply

    Some BSA merit Badge pamphlets are far from “ideal.” Some are full of contradictions with other, more authoritative, BSA literature, not to mention conflicts with the current consensus of experts in the fields. At least some efforts to improve this situation over a period of years are routinely ignored.

    While I understand the intent of the comment, it would be enough if the candidates were actually given an opportunity to pass the requirements and given the badge only if they passed.

  31. The biggest change that I am waiting for is online training for merit badge counselors. The training would incorporate current Youth Protection standards and also be good for two years.

    Completing an initial application and the training would result in certification as a counselor. The certification would be good for two years as YPT is.

    The counselor would be expected to complete this program again or an update program to continue their certification for another two years. Failure to complete it would automatically remove the counselor from any list.

    The training would include a survey as to what merit badges and relevant experience for district/council approval.

    Merit badges requirement changes and new merit badges from the last two years would be included in the program.

    I could see a potential commercial: Remember your scouting days? Weren’t they great. Share your knowledge and experience with a scout today. Become a merit badge counselor. Make their scout experience great too.

    People could hear the commercial, go to a website, sign up, complete the training and be registered (pending approval) without any human interaction.

    If you can make my vision happen, I would love to be part of the team that implements it, my email is skateremt@aol.com.

    Thanks for listening. Have a great day everyone!

    • I think that is HUGE. I’d love to see emphasis in the training on “interesting”, “fun” and evaluating your MBC teaching by whether the scout was glad to take it and whether it drove further interest in the topic.

      • H. David Pendleton // May 1, 2015 at 11:21 am // Reply

        When I do the American Heritage Merit Badge opportunity at the National WWI Museum at the Liberty Memorial in KC MO, each Scout fills our a survey for the event on a scale of 1-10, 10 being good. We consistently get over 9s in all parts of the survey. We mostly get 10s in knowledge of the material & MB Counselor preparation. There are only a few areas that we sometimes get below an 8. One is on “prerequisites” because there is always 1 or 2 Scouts that were not “told” by their parent or Scoutmaster that they had to have the prereqs done to obtain the MB that day. Sometimes the unprepared Scout reacts negatively on the survey because they did not earn their MB. Sometimes, we get a negative remark about the price ($15) but for that the Scout gets a snack, private museum tour, a patch, & can return to the museum until it closes. The museum provides the room to us to use w/o a cost when they could be charging another group to use it. We sometimes get a comment about the snack (fruit, granola bars, & lemondade), but maybe the Scout was expecting a 7-course meal for $15.

        The point is that I always ask for feedback because all us Wood Badgers know that feedback is a gift. I always use their comments to make the next MB opportunity even better. When my military veteran to interview is a Medal of Honor recipient, that always seems to generate a lot of comments on the feedback.

    • I can’t agree more with Michael. I have two people who want to be counselors (not just for their troop, but for any scout), but the earliest classroom training offered isn’t until November. Before you ask if we’re in a thinly populated area, the answer is no, we’re in Chicago!

      Actually, take a look at the MB counselor app and the info on the BSA web pages. The way I read it, training does not have to be done in a classroom environment. The app says “All merit badge counselors should seek training.” Then take a look here: http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts/Resources/advancement_presentations.aspx. It is a list of Advancement Educational PowerPoint Presentations for group instruction or INDIVIDUAL REVIEW (emphasis is mine). About the 5th one down is “The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling” powerpoint. Putting this all together, I think National is saying someone can look at this powerpoint, fill out the app and be a counselor. Further more, I don’t think you’ll find anything in the Guide to Advancement that states a person needs classroom training to be a MBC.

      The above is pretty close to online training, although I agree having the complete package be a part of the online training system, as Michael suggested, would be much better. I’d love to see a test at the end to see how much the candidate understands what he/she learned.

      That (a test) doesn’t happen now in the classroom, so we don’t know how much someone picked up from the class any more than we would someone viewing the above mentioned ppt. Unfortuanately, our area requires a person take classroom training before becoming a MBC. By November, I wonder if the people I know will still be interested? What’s the old military saying, “Hurry up and wait?”

      • Training is not until November?

        • Yes, our district and council require a person take a classroom MBC orientation class before he/she can be approved. The next class is in November. The people are looking at surrounding councils but haven’t found anything sooner.

  32. Tom Linton // May 1, 2015 at 9:53 am // Reply

    “Part of the new camp accreditation program they are audited in compliance with the Guide to Advancement.”

    I did a word search of the national camp accreditation program and neither the word “audited” nor and for of that word was located. Please help with a citation to the applicable section.

  33. Under the “Youth observers” does that apply to the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster position?

    • bizzkil,
      Yes it does.

    • Yes; plus a Scoutmaster is not a Committee Member thus losing the checks and balance of the Board.

      • Alan: a JASM isn’t a scoutmaster nor an assistant scoutmaster. He is a youth, and serves per the direction of the scoutmaster. So the reason they wouldn’t be on the board of review isn’t because they are a scoutmaster – but because they are a youth.

        • Sorry. I thought we were looking at an actual JASM who serves as a real ASM over the age of 16, except when the age of maturity is required for action.

          In most Troops they are considered an actual Assistant Scoutmaster (thus the title). However, your added point is correct in being under age.

        • JASM is a youth. Everyone under 18 registered in a troop is registered as a youth. No youth are to attend boards of review except for the Scout in front of the board.

        • That can be misleading. Even a 20 year old adult committee member is not allowed on the board. However, youth continue to 21 in combined troop/crew organizations. As a coordinator does a registered youth include those in Venturing. I have in the past invited 18-20 yr old observers to help a Scout feel comfortable in accordance with the Guide in best practice. Under this rule a Scout having a marked disability with adult socialization now needs an ISWD approved plan to have a 18-20 yr old registered youth accompany and observe the board.

        • Michael // May 6, 2015 at 8:38 pm //

          I am a bit confused with your statements. There are no separate rules for troop/crew combinations. Boy Scout advancement follows Boy Scout guidelines and Venture advancement follows Venturing rules.

          A scout board of review is 3-6 adults that do not include the leader or the assistants. Unless I missed something, that means an 18 yo Committee Member can serve on the BOR, but an 18 yo Assistant Scoutmaster can’t.

          Before 18, you can multiple register as a scout and a crew member. From 18-20, you would register as a scout leader and a crew member (using an adult application.) At 21, you would register as a leader in both the troop and the crew.

        • An 18 yo committee member cannot serve on a board. Neither can a 20 yr. That was my point of at least allowing them to observe the board. However, that cannot take place under the new guidelines.

          However, I do like the grey area of the 18 yo is filling out the adult application to be a Scout. Actually, I answered my own statement as the intent is youth = Scout. I know its s grey area. I think it comes down to being guided by the Scout Oath and Law. Is the presence of the 18 or 19 yo youth to help the Scout undergoing the board. At that point, I would allow it.

        • There are no 18yo committee members in a troop. The only adult position in a troop that an 18 year old can hold is ASM. An 18yo can also be a merit badge counselor, but that is not a troop position.

        • Good to know. I also wondered why I could not let anyone under 21 serve as a board member.

          So 18-21 just ASM. Learn something new.

          (I am smiling as we can vote for President of the US at 18 but cannot vote on a budget, committee actions or rank advancement of a Scout. :))

        • Michael // May 7, 2015 at 7:33 am //

          The Troop Committee Guidebook says that a Troop Committee must have three adults over 21. It does not say that you must be 21 to serve on the committee. I did not read the guide cover to cover.

          In our council, they expect 100% trained leaders. The path of an adult starts on the committee, gets that training online. Once they finished the Scoutmaster Training, they register as Assistant Scoutmasters.

          You can also list them as “College Reserve”, but if they don’t go to college, that does not seem like the right answer if they are active.

          Does anyone know definitely if the BSA system will not allow someone under 21 to be registered for the Troop Committee?

        • That is correct. Someone less than 21 cannot be registered in the position of committee member.

        • Michael // May 7, 2015 at 7:41 am //

          I missed the fact that the Guide to Advancement clearly states a BOR must be made up of members 21 or older.

          When I was a scout, the TLC (now the PLC) did reviews for scouts up to First Class. There’s an idea, let’s give that part back to the boys. It worked when I was a scout.

  34. Tom Linton // May 7, 2015 at 10:55 am // Reply

    The Rules and Regulations of the BSA provide in Article VIII, Section 3:

    ” Issuance of Commissions
    Clause 1. All individuals in unit leadership positions (including
    Lone Cub Scout and Boy Scout friends and counselors) shall be
    issued commissions by the Boy Scouts of America.

    Age Requirements
    Clause 3. Commissioned officials must be at least 21 years of
    age, with the exception of those individuals at least 18 years of age
    who may be commissioned as assistant unit leaders. (Associate
    Venturing Advisors must be 21 years of age.)”

    The same section goes on to say:

    “Adult leadership positions shall be filled by persons 21 years of age or older, except the following, which may be filled by persons 18 years of age or older: assistant Cubmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, assistant Varsity team Coach, assistant den leader, and assistant
    Webelos den leader.”

    This language clears up the ambiguity of the language in the Troop Committee Guidebook.

    However, issues of Venturers aside, an 18-year-old present as an observer at a Board of Review is not a “youth.” He is an adult. If BSA does not want sub-21 adult observers at a troop Board of Review, it needs to actually say so,

  35. Tom Linton // May 26, 2015 at 10:00 pm // Reply

    Questions regarding advancement rules

    A Scouter is claiming on a Scouting forum that his troop’s SM invoked 7.0.4.7 Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges becasue he had personal knowledge that the Scouts taking First Aid MB in a group setting had not been tested on the requirements. They had merely watched PowerPoint slides on first aid.

    He further maintains that his council ordered the SM to record the MB as earned and issue the MB to a Scout whose parents had complained – on pain of loss of membership if the SM failed to comply.

    As I have no personal knowledge regarding this case, I ask hypothetically if a council can order an SM to report a MB as earned despite the SM’s knowledge that it was not earned. Putting it another way, does 7.0.4.7 allow a council to overrule the SM’s factual determination that the MB was not earned?

    Further, can a council remove a Scouter’s membership for refusing to comply with an order to report a MB as earned?

    I have my view of the language of the G2A, but am interested in BSA’s view.

    Thank you.

  36. Any update out of the national meeting on the 2016 Boy Scout requirement changes, or the proposed change to take Sea Scouting out of the Venturing program?

    • There will be no change until at least February of 2016, we will have an update at seascoutblog.org next week.

  37. paul ostrander // May 29, 2015 at 9:01 pm // Reply

    some summer camps merit classes with 30 or more not nothing but merit mills scout come home 8 to 10 merit badges still do not know any thing about the badge.

  38. Not allowing online lists of merit badge councilors is a leap to 1990. Seriously, if you want to teach a merit badge, you must be on line. If you are luddite, we can find another person.

  39. From the Guide to Advancement…..

    8.0.0.2 Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met
    A Scout shall not be denied this opportunity. When he believes he has completed all the requirements for a rank, including a Scoutmaster conference, a board of review must be granted. Scoutmasters—or councils or districts in the case of the Eagle Scout rank—for example, do not have authority to expect a boy to request or organize one, or to “defer” him, or to ask him to perform beyond the requirements in order to be granted one. In a case where there is concern the Scout has not fulfilled the requirements for a rank as written, it is appropriate to advise the young man that he might not pass the board and to make suggestions about what he might do to improve his chances for success. It is, however, the Scout’s decision to go ahead with a board of review or not.

    Question, How are boys to get a Board of Review if they aren’t expected to ask for one? Our Troop gives boys their Board of Review upon request – typically, they ask at a meeting and the following meeting the board meets with the Scout. We don’t have scheduled Boards of Review. We want to award their earned rank as quickly as possible.

  40. So BSA is setting rules they have never enforced, can’t effectively enforce and really have no intention of enforcing? They are putting it out to cover their buts and trying to avoid litigation by stating it’s covered in GTA, GTSS, our camps are accredited………

    I have been involved in scouting 43 years and have been involved in many units throughout this country and worked camp staff.

    Over 20 years ago I had a council reject my MBC application stating it was impossible for one councilor to be proficient at more than 5 subjects! I went in and showed them the GTA which stated there was no limit And offered for them to checkup background , history, look at certifications or test me. Nothing happened! BSA puts out that “Workbooks are Discouraged” but I know counselor a who will not start if you do not have a workbook! Same as counselor a who just sign off for not doing the actual “Defined” requirement! Tell me, who and how are you going to enforce this?

    I have been counseling Search And Rescue MB and tried contacting you Bryan and through my chain of command (district, council, and national)about getting a change to the requirement about ICS-100. Due to the following: many scouts are unable to complete it and I have had parents refuse to allow there child to input their SSN into an online website. I was told I cannot alter the requirement period. I taught a SAR camp for our council most scouts did not complete the MB due to this requirement, which states print out the certificate and present it to your counselor. I just was approached by 1 scout in my troop and 2 from another troop to finish this MB. I assumed it was the ICS100, and was told…….. No we need the UTM map reading requirements as the counselor was unable to cover this! I was told they did the ICS100 as a group as a slide show and whoever could answer the question did it for the group!!!!!!!! This means each scout did not log on to th DHS/FEMA website and complete the course and print out the completion certificate I know that this is most likely tied to money for BSA as a law enforcement professional and SAR member my units receive compensation, credit and grants based on completion, which is why I understand BSA reluctance to drop the requirement, but when the counselor at an accredited council summer camp is going around the requirement I have to call “FOUL”. But around here I have butted heads with people who want to run advancement mills and will retaliate if you go against them. I grow more frustrated because the program I got so much out of has changed drastically and those in charge only se to care about money and avoiding litigation, the program is lost most of its FUN and if it doesn’t change will grow extinct.

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