Ask the Expert mailbag: Merit badges, blue cards, First Class Requirement 10

expertlogo1In the season of Wise Men, you won’t find many wiser than Chris Hunt, advancement team leader for the Boy Scouts of America.

Whatever advancement-related question I throw at him, he answers right away. He’s one of the big reasons my Ask the Expert series has been going strong for years.

This time, I sent him three questions that came to me from blog readers like you and stemmed from real-life dilemmas you’re facing.

The first was from a Scouter wondering who may purchase merit badges, after he was told only the advancement chair can do so. Another asked for valid reasons a Scoutmaster can use to refuse to give a Scout a blue card. The third cropped up after a parent disputed Requirement 10 for First Class.

Find the original questions and Chris Hunt’s wise answers, after the jump. Continue reading


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Ask the Expert: Is cutting corners off the Totin’ Chip allowed?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Play around with a knife, lose a corner on your Totin’ Chip. In my troop growing up, it was that simple.

If a Scout lost all four corners of his Totin’ Chip (essentially a Scout’s license to carry pocketknives, axes and saws), his blade-carrying privileges were revoked until he re-earned the card.

It’s all part of Boy Scouting’s well-reasoned approach to teaching boys to see pocketknives, axes and saws as tools, not toys.

But it’s the corner-cutting business that was on the mind of a Scouter who asked to remain anonymous. He sent me this email:  Continue reading


Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 3

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?The Ask the Expert floodgates are wide open.

I’m now getting roughly 50 emails a week with Ask the Expert questions, a sign that Scouters out there care enough to seek out the right answer to their burning BSA queries. (By the way, ask your question by emailing scoutingmag@gmail.com, subject “Ask the Expert.”)

For the third round of rapid-fire FAQs, I’ve picked out nine popular questions and tracked down the right answers.

We’ll cover parents who make light of a Scout earning lots of merit badges, a troop that won’t count the same leadership position twice, a discussion of who should pin on an Eagle medal, unofficial belts, jamboree entertainment, and more.

Let’s go …  Continue reading


Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 2

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Want proof as to how passionate Scout volunteers are about the Boy Scouts of America?

Just look at my inbox.

Last week, I provided answers to eight frequently asked questions, and at the end of the post, I provided information on how to ask your own Scouting-related question. (By the way, you can do so by emailing scoutingmag@gmail.com, subject “Ask the Expert.”)

Well, 78 emails later, it’s time for Round 2 of my rapid-fire FAQs. I can’t answer every question, but I have answered nine more common ones below.

This round will cover Cub Scouts earning merit badges, funeral services for a fallen Scouter or Scout, uniform questions, and more. Perhaps a question you’ve been wondering about is covered…  Continue reading

Scout service projects

Ask the Expert: Can Scouts earn service hours outside of the troop setting?

expertlogo1Are all service hours created equal?

If a Scout, say, builds a house with his church youth group or delivers meals with his school’s student council, can those hours count toward Boy Scout rank advancement?

That’s what a Scouter named Andrea wondered this week:


Our troop only allows service hours to accrue if it is a troop-sponsored service event. I think that this is against Scouting principles but understand the difficulty in calculating hours if the boys are collecting hours through school, church, etc. What is the BSA policy for this? Can the boys earn service hours outside the troop and how do we get those to “count” if they are allowed to be accrued by the Scout?



Now, nobody will question the value of service to others — even those not conducted with a Scout unit. But what Andrea’s wondering is whether her Scoutmaster is correct in restricting which hours may be applied to rank advancement within Scouting.

The short answer: Continue reading


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ask the Expert: Are blood drives and other drives acceptable Eagle projects?

Ask the ExpertWhen tragedies strike — be it a major accident, natural disaster, or act of violence — Scouts quickly answer the call to respond. It’s in our DNA.

That often manifests itself in drives for clothing, blood, and/or supplies. Nobody questions the value of these drives, but Scouters often wonder whether they’re acceptable as Eagle Scout service projects.

Take this email received yesterday from a Scouter who will remain anonymous:

A council has long-held that “drives” in general and blood drives in particular are verboten as Eagle service projects. The usual argument supporting this ban is that “other people do most of the work, including the leadership” and/or “there’s no way the Scout can ‘guarantee’ a particular outcome (e.g., a specific number of books collected, clothing collected, etc.).” Does the BSA have a written position on drives and their appropriateness as service projects for Eagle rank?

Great question. As usual, we turn to Advancement Team Leader Christopher Hunt for the official response. Chris says:  Continue reading


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

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?If a Scout camps several nights with his troop before getting a signed blue card from his Scoutmaster, do those nights count toward his earning Camping merit badge?

That’s what a Scouter, who I’ll call James, wondered last week in an email. James wrote:

I have a question concerning when a Scout must have a blue card. Our troop has a merit badge counselor that told boys that none of their camping nights count prior to them getting a signed blue card from the Scoutmaster.

It seems that I have read that this is contrary to BSA policy. Could you point me to a specific BSA reference for this?

Well, James, there’s no greater authority on this than Christopher Hunt, advancement team leader here at the BSA’s National Office.  Continue reading