Should Scouts earn merit badges at summer camp?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?

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: 


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

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

Can you shed some light on this topic?


Thomas S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a question?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

      • Our Troop requires Scouts to earn their rank and their merit badges. We don’t announce merit badge workshops and I have never seen a Scout present a workshop blue card. We also test a Scout on every requirement at the board of review. I know the guide says not too. But we pride ourselves on quality and our 60+ Scouts join our Troop because we make them earn their awards. The Council knows our policy. They don’t like it, but we have many Eagle Scouts and every one earned their Eagle. Let the LDS hand out awards like candy. We are a traditional Troop with values.

        • While I share misgivings about summer camp merit badge mills, do your troop’s “traditional values” include the Scout Law? If so, read “Obedient” again. Do as I say but not as I do?

          I suggest that bit would be more traditional to insure that those who are empowered to test are doing their job rather than having adults take over that role.

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

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

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

      • Unfortunately it is not the scoutmaster in our troops case, it is the committee chair that hinders the scouts advancement. An absolute control freak does not describe it. Last scout year to prep scouts for a MBU the scoutmaster sent out an email to scouts wanting a particular badge, he advised the scouts who the troop mb counselors were and to contact them. The chair jumped in, in what seemed like seconds and dictated who they were to contact despite having a number of names. The chair even frowns upon council sponsored classes at council headquarters. From Jack’s response above, I am encouraging steps 3 and 4, the advancement chair is brand new fresh from cub scouts and handpicked by the committee chair, so there is no sense in looking at steps 2 and 3. Step 5 should not even have to be looked at by the scout and parent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        • But if you’re the only MBC in the area for one, and your son wants to do it, what do you say? No, you can’t earn that one because you’re my son. Doesn’t make sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • I disagree, despite what the rules may say. It makes sense and it maintains the quality of Scouting. Looking for loopholes to advance Scouts who have not earned a merit badge is a disservice to Scouting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Answer: No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  30. As with everything else the adults are the checks and balances for the youth. Help the youth do the research on the event/counselors. And as with everything check to see what he did and learned.

  31. Why would any responsible leader limit a boy from learning something new. All the boys are not the same in the way they learn. We must look at many different ways in teaching. It should come from HQ no longer will limits be put on the boys.

    • The troop doesn’t appear to be limiting the Scout’s ability to learn, unless the troop does not have a counselor for a particular merit badge. I have seen first-hand, inadequate counseling on a large scale at merit badge events. The counselors and the council are not meeting their responsibilities. I hate to see the troops being further restricted in wanting the boys to fulfill the full requirements…nothing more/nothing less.

  32. Our troop has this policy, and it’s appropriate. Merit badges done at workshops etc. are often not done with the same rigor and high standards that we expect.

    • Your Troop is adding to the requirements and that is against the rules. If you find poor MBC Counselors, there are procedures to follow to either retrain them or eliminate them. Start by informing the District Training Chair.

    • Troop policy does not trump BSA regulations. Remember, every boy deserves a trained leader: that being one who learns the rules and follows them.

    • Well, that may be the case at this point, but once the new GTSS comes out, you will no longer be able to restrict boys from doing that – I don’t really “like” Merit Badge Fairs, however, we have boys using them all the time in our troop – It’s not ever been a problem…

  33. Addressing the original question, “Can a troop prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp?” – the answer is a resounding NO.

    The problem of MB counselors signing off Scouts who haven’t actually completed the requirements has been around for a long time. I was the Ecology-Conservation Director at a BSA camp in 1979 and 1980, and I had irate Scoutmasters in my face because I gave little Johnny a partial in Environmental Science. They couldn’t believe I was going to actually require their Scout to sit out in the woods for six 20-minute sessions, taking notes, and to actually write a report!

    I’ve seen both extremes: Scouts who earn a Merit Badge for which they’ve done little or no work, and Scouts who have been denied badges because of additional requirements being added by the counselor. Both extremes violate the standards.

    Whether it’s in a troop , summer camp, or a Merit Badge College setting, all counselors need to be trained to neither add to, nor take away from, the requirements of any Merit Badge.

  34. My SM rule (merely a guideline) was 1/3 friendlies (troop and troop family counselors) 1/3 camp and MB fairs 1/3 “total strangers” (on the district- or council- approved counselor list or recruit a teacher.) [Even though I’ve had a phone phobia ever since.]

  35. I fear the “Unit leaders must have a discussion”. It’s a good idea and the original purpose of the SM signature all along. But some unit leaders will twist and turn what they can to take control and box the scout into their way of scouting. Scouting’s supposed to be friendly and exciting for the scout. Now I can imagine troops responding by having advancement chairs schedule MB conversations and you need to bring your MB sash or advancement report with you to the meeting.

    Somehow it should be emphasized it’s a casual discussion.

    I hope it the 2013 GAC emphasizes that the troop is not to put any hurdles or establish formal processes around getting a MB signature. The process is to be as simple as the scout walking up the SM to ask for a signature. The SM and scout chat and then the SM signs the card. No approval. No refusal to sign.

  36. I ask how do you know the noted MB courses are Lax? Suggest an adult leader or Eagle Scout sit in on the course. Check the Scouts activity sheet.If the course is truly lax write a letter to the district or council advancement chair involved, giving details.

  37. In our troop, we like to make sure our Scout have ample opportunities to earn MB throughout the year. Our Boy Scouts understand that if they go to a MB Fair, or Summer Camp, and receive a signed Blue-card, does not mean that they have earned it “yet.” In our troop, all Scouts are to turn in MB worksheets showing that they understand the material that was covered and there is some form of documentation/pictures/adult-feedback that the Scout performed the “do and demonstrate” parts of the MB during the MB event. Each Scouts will need to turn in a MB worksheet along with the signed MB Blue card to be reviewed by the Advancement Coordinator and SM to ensure the Scout knows the MB content. All because a Scout went to a MB fair or Summer Camp does not guarantee that the Scout knows the MB material, why award it if they do not know the material? This is our troop quality assurance that all of our Scouts do the work for Rank and MB, thus ensuring we are “Doing our Best” in delivering a quality Boy Scout Boy Lead program. And the Scouts feel a greater since of accomplishment following our Advancement procedures to be awarded.

    • Tom: You have added the requirements which is expessly forbidden by the GTA, Once a certified MBC has signed the Blue Card, the MB is earned. There is no requirement for the Scout to be tested again on the information. Do you remember 100% of what you learned in a class 10 years ago, 5 years, 2 years, 2 weeks ago? Does a student remember everything they learn in school? Of course not. If your BOR is “testing” your Scouts on their requirements for advancement that is also not proper either. The BOR can ask the Scout where they learned how to do the requirement, which of the requirements were the toughest, or the easiest, but the Scout cannot be handed a rope at a BOR and said, “Tie me a Square Knot.” The following is taken directly from the GTA & basically says that your troop IS NOT to be doing what they are doing. Troops need to abide by the rules set up by BSA and not make up their own. Once It Is Earned, It’s Earned
      Once a registered and approved counselor has passed a Scout on requirements for a merit badge, it cannot be taken away. Nor does unit leadership have the authority to retract approval, or take the badge away. Even if a merit badge counselor were found to be improperly documented, it would be a rare occasion when a Scout would be penalized for the mistake of an adult volunteer.

      • Thank you for your reply and information. We will review your notes and the BSA GTA at the next the troop committee to make sure we are within the GTA guidelines. Please note I made no mention to BOR and want to make it clear that we are currently following BSA recommendations with Rank Advancements, BOR’s and MB awarding.

    • Wow. There is no “knowing the MB” material. There’s no troop 2nd guessing a sign off. If you have a problem with the sign off, go to the MBC or the district or the council. Address it by getting the counselor to improve or having the counselor removed. Ya don’t put it back on the scout !!!

      The biggest issue is that this is OFF THE TARGET. Just because you took a MB does NOT mean you mastered the requirements UNLESS the requirement says to MASTER it. Merit Badges are “Introductions” to topics to spur interest and excitement. The real benefit is working with others and following thru on details such as the requirements. The MB topic is just the channel for those lessons.

      Your “doing your best” is a disservice to the scouts.

      • You mean like “On my Honor, I will do my best to do my duty…”

        No. It’s not a cub scout thing. It’s a Scout thing.

        • Doing your best is certainly a “Scout thing” regardless of age. I have been involved in scouting for the past 20 years. I have worn different hats from cub scout leader, committee chair, unit commissioner and merit badge counselor. Every boy I have come in contact with has different strengths and weaknesses. I expect each one to do his best. When I do a merit badge with a scout, the best from one child may not be the same as another child. As a special ed. teacher, I realized early in my career that all children must be treated as individuals. Every family dynamic is different. As a Family Life MBC, I talk with the boys before they do their projects. I try to make sure the projects are relevant to each family. What may be a small project for one family, might actually be huge to another family depending on their circumstances. If a boy is doing his best, to the best of his abilities, he has earned the badge. No one should be judging the validity of earning of the badge. Calling counselors and learning how to sit and talk and work with a stranger is a big deal for some kids. We are not only helping them to learn about the badge they are doing….we are preparing them to be a success in life!

    • Do you know that by requiring “worksheets” you are adding to the requirements? While the “worksheets” are handy for the Scouts to keep track of their progress, they can not be required!

      The best way to determine if Scouts have actually done the requirements is to ask them questions that determine WHAT they have learned. While you are NOT allowed to retest, you could ask questions to determine what they learned. Maybe questions such as “What did you learn about ?”

  38. We have had some problems with specific workshops. In 1 case, scouts were getting Family Life or Personal Management signed off as “complete” after taking a single 90 minute class, with no work done prior to the class. In this case, the counselors were clearly cutting large corners off the requirements. And once those kids have the signed blue cards, parents get very unhappy when you tell them that their son did not earn the badge. So we just stated that no scout would get any requirements signed off without a review from a troop counselor and stated our concerns. We still get a few unhappy parents, but that’s life.

    I have also seen summer camps cut corners. Our policy has been for Eagle-required work done outside the troop, it has to be reviewed by a counselor Perhaps we should do the same thing for non-Eagle badges, but at some point it just becomes too much of a burden..

    • Evidently many Scouters need to go back & read the current GTA. Troops that make Scouts jump through hoops after receiving a completed blue card from any MBC is in direct violation of the GTA. Specifically the 1st & 2nd sentences of Paragraph below. When Scout leaders see a problem with a substandard MBC (at a MB Forum/Fair or otherwise), the Scouter should have report it in writing to the Scouter running the event, the District Advancement Chair, and if necessary, the Council Advancement Chair. Just because a Troop will not take the time to follow the procedures to get rid of a substandard MBC, does not allow that Troop to make up their own rules. If I was a parent in that kind of troop and felt my Scout had completed the MB requirements (nothing more and nothing less), I would make sure the troop abided by the rule below. And if the troop did not, my Scout would be in a different troop by the next week. Not because another Troop was “easier,” but the troop that I am going to support with my time is going to follow the BSA regulations and not their own self-made up rules. Maybe those Scouters that are adding additional requirements to MBs earned outside the troop need to review the 7th point of the Scout Law as I don’t think it adds a clause that says “only when the troop agrees with the rules and regulations.” Once It Is Earned, It’s Earned
      Once a registered and approved counselor has passed a Scout on requirements for a merit badge, it cannot be taken away. Nor does unit leadership have the authority to retract approval, or take the badge away. Even if a merit badge counselor were found to be improperly documented, it would be a rare occasion when a Scout would be penalized for the mistake of an adult volunteer.

      • So, David, what would you do if a Scout attended a 1-day merit badge fair and returned with a signed blue card indicating he earned the Family Life, Personal Fitness or Personal Management badges without any prior work on the badge? Would you actually record the badge?

        • I would ask the Scout to recite the Scout Oath & Law. Then ask the Scout if they completed 100% of the requirements as stated, nothing more and nothing less. I would ask him if he would show me his tracking sheets (Scout doesn’t have to do so). If he then does not volunteer to take back the Blue Card until he completed the actual requirements, I would then ask him if he thinks that the SM should sign him off for exhibiting “Scout Spirit” for his next rank.

        • Tracking sheets? The only allowed tracking sheet is the blue card. That’s it. Read the GTA. It’s pretty explicit.

          Usually it’s impossible to document all the negatives because you can’t document every perversely possible concept. But it is funny because BSA does explicitly say the blue card is the only acceptable form and that troops are not to add or do differently. BSA GTA 2011 Page 37.

        • Fred answered the question for me. That is why I would ask to see the tracking sheet, but the Scout could refuse. I spent over 23 years following a multitude of regulations in the Army. Instead of trying to add one’s own rules to the Army’s, I always sought to find the rule that would satisfy my intent. In the case of BSA, that could be the Scout Spirit piece that the SM can control. So instead of adding to the MB requirements that are prohibited by BSA policy, use the BSA policy that can properly be used.

        • If you can not ask for tracking material, why is it that the BSA has worksheets for all merit badges? When we do a badge at our hut, we use the work sheets. That’s how we know who completed what, and if you miss a meeting it shows on the sheet. Then it is up to the Scout to ask to make up the work.

        • Brian: Can you point me to the “official” BSA website with “official” worksheets? I believe all the websites out there with worksheets for MBs are not associated with BSA, but are constructed by well-meaning volunteers to assist Scouts put their thoughts together so they can discuss/show/demonstrate knowledge/etc. of a specific requirement in an organized manner instead of having a bunch of loose-leaf sheets with scriblings on them.

          This is the disclaimer from MeritBadgeDotOrg:


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          REPRESENTATIONS: The U.S. Scouting Service Project is a non-profit organization operated by volunteers and is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) or with the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). The USSSP may advance opinions that are not consistent with other Scouting Associations and its writing should not be construed as official interpretations of BSA or WOSM policy. The USSSP is operated as a public service with the intention of providing a means to share Scouting related information.

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        • So, if a Scout comes in to a meeting, and his Dad printed a blue card, (which we do, the actual blue cards cost to much) I should just take his word for it and not ask any questions about it? That is one of the BIG problems with Scouting today, it is to soft.

        • Technically the Scout should get the Blue Card before they start the MB along with the SM’s signature. Since your Troop’s policy is to just print off “blue cards” because they are “too costly,” you are surprised that someone with access to a computer might circumvent the system? Many camps and MB Forums/Fairs issue their own “Blue Cards” that are often not really blue cards, but a summary sheet.

          In this case, I would have a Troop meeting to explain the MB procedures to the Scouts that the order is: request the blue card; get the SM’s signature on the Blue Card with a recommended counselor; find a MBC Counselor; complete the requirements; have the MBC sign the card; return the card to the Advancements Chair for the Troop Committee.

          If the Scout got a “Blue Card,” from some other method, this could be addressed by asking the Scout if they are following the Scout Law (Obedient) and through the use of Scout Spirit.

          The GTA is explicit that once the MBC signs the MB as being completed, it’s a done deal.

        • David Pendleton wrote:

          Brian: Can you point me to the “official” BSA website with “official” worksheets? I believe all the websites out there with worksheets for MBs are not associated with BSA, but are constructed by well-meaning volunteers to assist Scouts put their thoughts together so they can discuss/show/demonstrate knowledge/etc. of a specific requirement in an organized manner instead of having a bunch of loose-leaf sheets with scriblings on them.

          I happen to be the Scouter that currently prepares the worksheets on, which are also available on We never state that they are official, and in fact specifically state on each one this:

          The work space provided for each requirement should be used by the Scout to make notes for discussing the item with his counselor, not for providing the full and complete answers. Each Scout must do each requirement.

          BTW, any copies of the worksheets I’ve prepared which are posted on sites other than,, or an official BSA site are in violation of our copyright.

          As for David’s question to Brian, BSA has posted a copy our worksheet for Game Design at this URL:

          boyslifeorg dot files dot wordpress dot com/2013/03/gamedesign.pdf

          They’ve also posted one that they prepared, based on our template, for Robotics at this URL

          boyslifeorg dot files dot .wordpress dot .com/2011/04/roboticsworkbook.pdf

        • Most of the requirements for Family Life have to be done with the family. There are 2 projects to be done that are supposed to be approved by your counselor before you do them. It would be impossible to earn the badge at a merit badge fair without have certain requirements done ahead of time.

        • David, As to tracking sheets, BSA prints them officially in the merit badge handbooks. Although specific forms are not required, many of the long-term requirements need documentation. (e.g. Family life #3 “Prepare a list of your regular home duties or chores (at least five) and do them for 90 days. Keep a record of how often you do each of them. ” and Personal Fitness #8 “. . .Keep a log of your fitness program activity. . .”) I think reviewing these with a Scout is perfectly reasonable. You are not retesting him on the requirement.

        • Paul: I am not upset with any MB tracking sheets or the Scouters that post them. I think they are great!!! The point I was trying to make was that Brian did not know that the tracking sheets were not made by the BSA and thus he could not support his argument that since BSA made the sheets, their Troop could ask for them from a Scout that earned a MB outside their Troop. This was a fallacy based on his lack of knowledge of where the MB tracking sheets come from.

        • Nelson: It is the MBC’s responsibility to review the tracking sheet of chores, etc. Once the MBC signs off on the Blue Card, it is not under the auspices of any Scouter in the Troop to make the Scout show the SM/ASM/CM or any other one his “paperwork”. This is adding to the “nothing more, nothing less” requirement. The GTA says that once the Blue Card is signed, the MB is earned. What more does it take to explain that.

          As stated several times before that if a SM/ASM or any other Scouter is unhappy with a MBC, they need to follow the prescribe methods to get the MBC taken off the rolls. The same holds true for any MB Fair/Forum/University that is held. Trying to punish the Scout for the sins of an Adult Scouter is not the solution to the problem.

  39. What can a unit do if a Scout chooses to earn a badge with a counselor who does not follow BSA guidelines with regards to requiring the Scout to complete all the merit badge requirements? This happens a LOT at Summer Camp, but it’s not the only place.

    • What I’ve been doing for many years is posting summer camp reviews on SCOUTS-L. You would be amazed how quickly a summer camp gets serious about merit badge quality when they know troops are staying away because of poor reviews. The same thing is true about merit badge fairs.

  40. On my honor I will do my best? My fellow leaders and I do follow the guidelines. However, we also hold our noses. Our council here in the triad of NC allows scouts to earn merit badges at their summer camp and at merit badge colleges where the Scouts are given a blue card indicating completion yet we know that they did not complete all the requirement. We’ve had the discussion over the past seven years with those in charge…no changes have ever been made. So much for the Journey to Excellence (guess what – shortcuts here also). As such, in our council, we do cheat our Scouts out of a quality program. I know that sounds harsh…not sure how to present it happier. From the previous comments, it appears like other Scoutmasters have the same situation in their councils also. Our tact has been to encourage our Scouts to be trustworthy even if doing so is not modeled sometimes in our council.

      • I would post the link to the one my scout attended but it was gone off the website…..

        The cost was $75

        • I haven’t seen a $75 one yet. My son has now been to three MB Forums/Fairs. The cost of these were $10 (two 1/2 days of 1 hour, 45 minutes each session a month apart to earn 2 MBs); $15 (three 1/2 days with 1 hour each time to earn 3 MBs); and $25 (all day to earn 2 MBs). The latter included facility rental, lunch, and supplies for the MBs.

          In conjunction with the National World War I Museum, I facilitate the American Heritage MB twice a year. Current cost is $15. This includes admission to the museum (special tour during the MB Class with an option to return to the Museum after the class is over until the museum closes), a special Scout patch, breakfast, snack, and drinks for lunch (Scout brings their own lunch). Adults who attend (Scouter or just parent) can go on the tour for free and receive a patch if they want. The class begins at 8:30 AM and ends when the Scouts have completed the requirements as stated, nothing more and nothing less. If the Scouts do their prerequisites, they are usually done between 2:15 and 2:30 PM. Those that do not do their prerequisites either receive a partial Blue Card if they completed any of the requirements and can leave; or they can stick around to work with one of the MBCs (we usually have between 3 and 6 qualified American Heritage MBCs on hand) if the requirement can be met on the spot.

  41. I’ve experienced the opposite, where we had 4 Scouts who went to camp and DID earn the First Aid Merit Badge or at least did all of the requirements, and then the counselor didn’t fill out the accomplishment appropriately. So then we had to do it over again in the troop level. But this council doesn’t give or sign blue cards, they have an online tracking system that they make available for download after the event… You can’t fix this system… SO we have a bunch of ticked off scouts and scouters…. (Circle 10 Council Winter Camp)

    But you can’t add requirements to a Scout nor can we take anything from them that they were presented. Matter of fact, we have had people that think they are the Scouting Police and try to evoke all kinds of craziness adding to the program by creating hoops scouts or parents have to jump through to get their advancements going…. That ALWAYS goes over like a fat lady doing the high hurdles… (THUD!!!)

    • I’ve seen this with Circle 10’s summer camp, sometimes there are MBs with NO completed requirements listed for the boys. I try to get this verified before the boys leave on Saturday so that it’s easier to check the paper forms the MBCs turn in.

  42. It’s okay to ask them to be trustworthy and to call on their conscious. But not to put a guilt trip on them or for someone else to take away something that’s been completed. The point is that the merit badge COUNSELOR decides when the MB is complete. The MB program is *** NOT *** a troop function. It’s a district / council function. If you don’t like how it’s being done, tell them. Don’t penalize your scout.

  43. I had a scout earn 8 merit badges out of a single day merit badge fair……..

    While he will receive them, unless he decides to own up to the fact he did not do the work he is finished advancing in my troop.

    I will fail him on scout spirit until he says he did not earn 8 merit badges in 6 total hours. I have had an SMC with the scout and told him such…..He stands firm that he earned them……Despite the fact the Clinic Fair was less than 6 weeks ago, he cannot tell me about his weather instrument, his electronics project, or the robotics competition. All things he should still remember.

    I will let some other scoutmaster give him his falsified Eagle.

    Quality control is a unit level function…..Too many units hide behind the GTA and other documents and throw their hands up……

    If you are just giving these boys a pass on things you know they didn’t complete… have no right to complain about the quality of the scouts or the program.

    • You are doing the right thing because Scout Spirit is your control mechanism. 8 MBs in 6 hours must be a new record.

    • It is not your place to judge whether a scout completed his mb satisfactorily or not.

      He may have been working on them before he went to the clinic and the counselor acknowledged that the work was done, ie started at summer camp but because some requirements weren’t done he couldn’t finish at camp.

      It is your job to make sure the scout is capable and ready to do the mb. If he had 8 blue cards you weren’t doing your job.

      • Oh dan my boy…..Do you know this scout??? I assure you he wasn’t prepared, I will bet $100 he spent his time there playing games on his ipod.

        The folks at the merit badge fair issued signed blue cards after each session….The boys who attended never approach me for blue cards or even asked about attending….Had he asked me for 8 for the Event….What do you think my reaction would have been.

        I suspect what happened was the blue cards were left in an unprotected location and my scout helped himself to the signed one.

        His buddy turned in two cards…..and seemed to have completed the merit badges when I talked with him about it…..He had an battery powered LED mini flashlight he assembled. and a leather neckerchief slide……

        Was I grilling the second scout….No, but he proudly showed me his projects…

        • I stand corrected.

          My son works on merit badges all year. In some cases, he fails to complete all the work at the fair, clinic, or college. When this happens I encourage him to bring his blue cards to camp. There are many good counselors there who have helped him finish the work.

          Last year he spents almost 10 extra hours meeting the final requirements.

          I understand your position. I would let all your scouts know that unless they talk to you first, you will not sign any blue cards. Second, let them know that because of inconsistencies in that particular merit badge event. Future merit badges from that event arenot allowed unless a rep from the troop verifies the process.

  44. mr pendleton,

    I feel sorry for you….

    I don’t know if you live the Guide to Scouting because you have too?? or it is by choice.

    These discussions are about chasing Eagle…. It is about check marks on list…It isn’t about the individual scouts experience….

    • Mr. Basement: I do not get your point, but no need to feel sorry for me. The BSA has a set of rules set out in the GTA for earning MBs. As a firm supporter of the BSA program, I attempt to obey the policies as written and not come up with my own rules. If I do not like the policies, there are three things I can do: (1) Leave the organization; (2) Make Up my own policies and disregard the policies that I disagree with; or (3) Work through the approved procedures to change the policies that I disagree with and cannot accept. Troops that blantantly retest Scouts on MBs earned outside the Troop or their own internal counselors; do not accept MBs signed off by approved MBCs; not accept MBs earned at Camp; or add additional hurdles to the MB process are in direct violation of the national BSA policies. My point is that once a Blue Card is signed, the Scout has earned the MB. The mechanism for the SM is Scout spirit and if you missed it, I fully support you not signing up on the Scout Spirit for the Scout who earned 8 MBs in 6 hours. In this instance, I am suggesting to use the tool (Scout Spirit) that the BSA offers us instead of breaking other policies.

  45. But why does National need to remove the SM’s ability to assign a know Merit badge councilor….I have absolutely no ability to address the quality of the councilors my scouts visit..

    Picture this…..Eagle driven family…What are they going to do……Merit badge fair where scout can pick up All three citizenships in a single day….Or visit the local judge who is my preferred merit badge councilor for the citizenships….

    Who is going to be tougher on the scout???

    Who will have the better experience????

    While some SM’s are on ego trips…..I would rather my boys visit the MBC that I direct them too…..While it maybe more work, the experience for the scout is far superior.

    Is it the journey or the destination????

    My scout was terrified walking into the judges chambers…..He participated in a Naturalizaiton ceremony, and shook the hands of 40 new citizens…. It was an amazing experience…..He still talks about it….The MBC was fantastic to say the least…..

    • Who will be tougher? I don’t remember seeing tough in any of the requirements. If that is one of the things you look for you are doing a disservice to the Scouts. Now the good experience, that’s key!

      • When I say tougher….I mean actually hold the scout to achieve what is written.

        Not some cub scout, attendance=participate=patch crap.

      • Bob, while you claim not to be a SM on an ego trip, I’m afraid that is precisely what you appear to be. Advancement is not about making up arbitrary rules for your unit which throw roadblocks in front of Scouts. I hope that for the good of your troop, when the new GTA comes out, you will read and embrace it.

    • The intent of BSA National was never to allow a SM to “assign” a MBC to a Scout. What if the “assigned” MBC did not answer his telephone because he was out of town on business for 6 months. Is the Scout suppose to wait 6 months until he returns? Does he go back to the SM a month later & says, “I tried to reach this MBC, but he never responded” so the SM now assigns him MBC #2? Does a single SM know the “best” MBC for all 130+ MBs? Does every SM have the knowledge to know which lawyer would make a great MBC for Law? What if the Scout’s parent knows someone that is a MBC for that MB who he wants his son to associate with, but the SM does not know the individual? Who wins that battle?

      There is no criteria for the amount of “work” that goes into a MB. Each MB has its own requirements and the Scout must meet the requirement to the MBC’s satisfaction. Yes, there is a problem if a Scout goes to a MB College & gets all 3 Citizenship MBs in the same day w/o any prerequisites completed. In that case, the District Advancement Chair needs to be advised of the situation so they can take care of the MBC. If the District Advancement Chair fails to act, then elevate it to the Council Advancement Chair. That is your quality control & you do have a say. If you do not think a MBC should be counseling, notify the District Advancement Chair in writing. Then get your SM friends to do the same if they have had the same problem with the MBC. If there are more than just a few complaints, I would want to believe that the MBC would be “retrained” or be dropped from his role in Scouting.

      By the way, there is nothing in any of the Citizenship MB requirements that states that a Scout needs to go to a Naturalization Ceremony & shake the hands of 40 new citizens. If that was required/directed by the MBC it was wrong. If the Scout did it on his own, then more power to him.

      • Judge invited him to attend at their first meeting and scheduled their next meeting to coincide with the ceremony…..

        A quality merit badge experience….

  46. This topic is a great one! As a scoutmaster in the past I have discouraged (but not prohibited) scouts from earning merit badges at “merit badge colleges”. Part of the valuable experiences that scouts gain by using what has been the age-old process of: meeting with his scoutmaster to get approval to work on a merit badge, determine an appropriate counselor, then make an appointment with that counselor and work thorough the requirements toward final completion are excellent life skills that are often missed in if a scout ONLY earns merit badges through unit meetings, merit badge colleges and summer camp. There have also in the past been issues with how merit badges have been administered at some MB colleges where just by attending the sessions they automatically earn the MB often not truly completing the requirements. All this being said, with youth protection sensibilities required in the world in which we live in today MB colleges are a great option when administered properly. I think the change in SM approval suggested is however throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This is an important tool for any scoutmaster…a tool which must be used correctly, but a tool just the same. Perhaps the National Advancement Committee should focus on making sure that Unit, District and Council Advancement committees don’t create their own rules and requirements which unfortunately has been the recent history in my area…eg the limitation of how many MB’s a registered counselor may be a counselor for…this is a local addition not a national policy and therefore not really enforceable. The last item…Merit Badges being “taught” at troop meetings is a very bad practice. Introduced..yes..but not taught, especially the book work. Scouts should experience fun and action filled troop meetings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited troop meetings and found scouts sitting on their backsides, bored to death, listening to some merit badge counselor lecture them. Introduce a skill during the skills instruction portion of your meeting along with a handout on how the individual scout may learn more, including earning a merit badge related to the skill. Merit Badges aren’t just about advancement, the Eagle required ones are appropriate skills necessary to be a good citizen, and the other optional MB’s might even introduce a scout to his future life’s work…

    • The issue of the number of MBs one can counsel is a tricky one. Based on my hobbies and experience, if I was in a rural area w/o that many MBCs I could probably counsel at least 50 MBs comfortably. Our Council would like for MBCs to only counsel approximately 6 MBs. Because of our location, there are more than enough MBCs so that number works. I did check out the council’s MBC list & did see that one guy was counseling over 30 MBs. That seems a little extreme for me, but maybe it is a small troop and no one else wants to do it. It, however, could be a SM who is wants to make sure that no Scout earns a MB from a MBC outside the troop.

      • No limit here on numbers of MB/ counselor. I do Astronomy, Radio, Environmental Science, Fish & Wildlife Mgmt, Forestry, Geocaching, Mammal Study, Nature, Soil & Water Cons.

        Not an issue. You know why? Because in the 20 years I have been a consular I have only taught 1 kid Environment Science (he had one requirement he didn’t finish at camp). I taught radio but did it at a Winter Advancement. Sad…very sad.

        Another peeve is those who are listed on the District list as a consular but beside their name it is noted they will only do kids in their own troop. Where I work I have considered offering MB days and advertising to to scouts just so I can get some blue cards for once. That or give up and remove my name.

        • Mike you beat me too it…..

          I have the district and council merit badge councilor list and I was also astonished by the number of Troop X only merit badge councilors…

          National wants to man up…….That would be a great place to start.

          My favorite guy on our list is a security guard at the local federal building who is listed as a Nuclear Science MBC….I know him…..

          I have yet to ask him about it…..I hope it is a clerical error.

        • Bob- Most of my MB’s are taught at summer camp so that is probably why I do not get calls. I understand that but I am a Wildlife Biologist. I would think I could compete with some kids at summer camp knowledge wise if it were not for them having to call me vs. picking it up at camp. Heck I have scouts in my own troop taking them at summer camp.

        • Mike: I’ve been doing MB Counseling for only about 3 1/2 years & still waiting to get the call out of the Blue from a Scout. Our Council only puts those MBCs on the website that state they will do it for anyone. Those that are only for their own Troop must be kept in a separate place because I have not found that list yet.

          Just about 7 months ago, I coordinated with the National WWI Museum (where I volunteer also) to do the American Heritage MB there. The HST Museum/Library was already doing Citizenship in the Nation and American Heritage and it fills up so quickly that I figure that they could use some “assistance”. They do 150 Scouts in a day while the WWI Museum only has 2 rooms that are useable & one of those in the Conference Room. We have space for about 24 Scouts in the Education Center. The 1st one had 18 Scouts when a few no-shows. The one we did last month had 28 with 2 no-shows. Space was tight, but we managed.

          I just noticed that the St. Louis council has several programs over there. They do Stamp Collecting when the big Stamp show is in town; the Carpenter’s Union helps out for a day-long one for Woodwork and that appears to be one that there are not a lot of MBCs around. There appears to be some good ideas out there, just need to make sure they are are adhering to the standard.

        • Until recently our district was the same way. Of the 136+ meritdges offered, our district covered about 120. Of those, there were multiple counselors for each.

          The problem arose when most of the counselors would only do their troop’s scouts. When our council made the districts reevaluate the counselors, many of the counselors dropped out because they did too many merit badges or they didn’t want out of town scouts calling them.

          My troop has eight scouts. How am I supposed to provide a good learning experience to these young men when we can’t even get counselors to return phone calls because the scout is not from their troop?

        • Dan: I just checked our District MBC Website (I hadn’t been on it for about 5-6 months) & noticed that the number of Counselors are way down. I do not know the reason for it, but will ask. Even the Scouter who heads up the annual District MB Forum was not listed for any MB & neither is her husband. Before, they had about a dozen MBs covered between them. I do not know if they chose to restrict their services to their Troop or if they have other fish to fry so do not have the time to be MBCs right now.

        • Mike: I had my 1st Scout call me out of the blue . . . well not really. He attended the MB Forum I ran at the National WWI Museum for the American Heritage MB several weeks ago. The Scout needed to leave early for another appointment so I only signed off on the requirements that he completed. He emailed me last week & we set up a time to me with him & his Father on “neutral territory” at the local Panera. He came prepared to complete his final 2 requirements and I signed off on his Blue Card. This was his 1st MB since he just crossed over in February. Now I’m waiting for the others from that class or my Coin Collecting one that had incompletes to contact me.

    A lot depends on the instructor. A number of our Scouts worked on their Forestry Merit Badge. “IT WAS LIKE A SCIENCE LAB” in the field. The boys had to return three times for instruction and Q & A. They were very excited and couldn’t wait to get started each day . A lot of HANDS ON and in the dirt. THEY LOVED IT! When its like that, I’m all for it.
    The most Merit Badges earned at camp that summer by any of our Scouts was three, and a lot of partial work had been done before they arrived at camp.

  48. This topic has sparked an interesting debate on SCOUTS-L. You may review the discussion during the past few days at

    • Looks like it is impossible to post a link. Do a google or bing search on “scouts-l dot org” and you should be able to see the comments.

      • Just looked over the discussion on Much the same as here. The only thing that I thought was not right was not using local resources. The MBC does not have to be the one “teaching” the Merit Badge. A Scouter with some inkling of the subject could then get an “expert” to come teach it because the non-Scout is even more of an expert. This would be like getting the local orienteering club to teach orienteering to the Troop while the SM or one of the ASM who knows a little about the subject serves as the MBC. That MBC would be able to certify that the requirements were met even though the teaching the finer points of the subject were not the MBCs.

  49. I as a Scoutmaster for over tewnty years do not promote MB Universities or other quick and easy MB classs especially Eagle required badges. My troop does attend summer and winter camps every year and have no problem with scouts earning their badges at BSA camps. Should a scout wish to attend a MB class at a MB Fair, Expo or other seeting we talk it over to make sure he knows the material before we sign off and present the badge.

  50. Regarding Midways:
    In the course of study, It is not uncommon that scouts will complete coursework, whose compulsory scholarship far exceeds, corresponding to merit badge pamphlet requirements .

    During this initiation, the scout is developing a healthy relationship with an, albeit non-BSA registered, adult instructor.

    In cases like these, A merit badge midway allows an alignment of demonstrated scholarship with a BSA registered merit badge counselor well versed in dynamics reflecting the BSA path of development.

    The midway can advance an opportunity for a scholar-scout to reintegrate a disjointed analysis of a topic with a holistic approach to citizenship preparation based upon life skills education, leadership development and values training.

    Midways also provides scouts with an option for finishing partial completions and correcting deficiencies if any counselor qualifications have not been met. (see Guide to Advancement

    In closing, establishing prerequisites to midway each course, by the Midway host/ MB counselor, are often helpful in provoking appropriate preparation by the scout. The MB pamphlets are advanced as required reading.

  51. I had not read this thread before today. I find myself on all sides of this issue (Eagle Scout, 5 time camp staffer, former Scoutmaster, current MB counsrlor and sometimes presenter at MB Fairs). As the last two items on my list show, I’m a fan of going outside the troop to earn badges. As a Scoutmaster, I saw to it that certain badges were always available in the troop, but we relied on the council summer camp for things like swimming and environmental science. As a camp staffer and MB fair presenter, unit Scouters were and are always welcome to observe.

    I split my merit badge duties down the middle. Most Eagle Required badges that I counsel I do limit to one troop (Citizenships and Personal Management), on the theory that most troops have available counselors . As a unionized Public Sector employee who manages Information Technology for a state department of transportation, I counsel all comers for Railroading, Truck Transportation, Computers and American Labor.

    It still all boils down to training, both of the troop leaders AND of the MBC.

  52. In reading the comments, it seems the problem is that Merit Badge Counselors need to be better trained.
    No counselor should ever begin counseling a Scout unless a blue card has already been signed by the Scoutmaster.
    No counselor should ever sign off a Merit Badge as completed unless ALL requirements have been completed AS STATED. No requirement should be modified to make it easier, or harder, unless the Scout has some sort of documented disability or special needs. The time constraint of summer camp or a weekend event is not a valid reason to alter the requirements.
    I’ve been an area director at 2 Scout camps, and I have always directed the staff members under me to never sign off a Merit Badge unless the Scout completed ALL the requirements. As a counselor at our local Merit Badge Challenge, I do the same.
    This issue needs to be addressed at the national level. I’ve long held that all adult leaders, including Merit Badge Counselors, should be required to go through more rigorous training on advancement standards, in the same way they are required to go through Youth Protection.
    The Eagle rank, or any other rank, doesn’t mean anything if the Scout didn’t complete all of the requirements. On the other hand, adding to the requirements can keep a Scout from receiving what he has rightfully earned, and is a disservice to the Scout. The only solution is to train all adult leaders to stick strictly to the requirements AS STATED.

  53. Our Troop does this for Eagle Required MB’s. Reason was when I was the Scoutmaster a boy went to a MB University and took Citizenship in the Community. He had done NO pre-requisite work. At the end of the 8 hour class he came back with a signed/completed BLUE Card. Part or the requirement is to do 8 hours communtiy service which he didn’t do. This was brought up to the District Executive, Council Advancement and the Council Executive only to fall on deaf ears. I certainly don’t like what we did BUT I will not see the program cheapened by rubberstamping Merit Badges especially Eagle Required.

    • Sean,

      Did the scout accept the MB with out doing the service project? That would be his desision. My son got Disabilities Awareness MB signed off but did not do the service time. So he did it later and turned in his blue card. He didn’t want the MB until he did the work.
      The same thing happend when the District Advancement Chair was notified. They didn’t seem to have an issue with rubber stamping MB’s. But this was one MB councilor from the fair. The rest of the MN were completed.

      • Kelly
        Even after it was brought to the attention of everyone it happened again the next year. As a Troop we made the decision to let the boys go but NO Eagle Required.

  54. About a month ago, I led a Merit Badge Forum at the National World War I Museum for the American Heritage Merit Badge. One of the Scouts that had to leave early due to another activity contact me this week. He did not receive a completed Blue Card from me because he did not meet the requirements, nothing more & nothing less. I am meeting with the Scout and his Father tomorrow as the Scout has said he completed the rest of the requirements. We shall see. This is the way the system should work. Still waiting to hear back from several Scouts who only got partials from me for Coin Collecting at the District Merit Badge Forum because they failed to meet the requirements (most forgot to bring in their coin collections), but I am not going to hold my breath.

    • Part of a scouts is learning to be more mature and responsibility. If they chose to leave a merit badge class to go to something more important, then they should not be disappointed to receive a partial. They just made a desicion that the councilors time is worth little. Perhaps the councilor can have a make up session, but that it their perogative. I have given out partials and some boys return to complete and others do not.

  55. My unit discourages the sole use of these fairs and events as a means to deliver an adequate advancement program. I think it’s still appropriate for a scout to discuss with his Scoutmaster or appointed unit leader, his desire to earn a certain badge before he works on the core of it. That’s not to say he can’t complete some requirements before this happens, as in Camping MB, etc It’s more of a quality issue for us, as there have been certain MB fairs, etc that have not measured up to any reasonable standard. We’ve also had those moms that drag their kids about trying like crazy to push them into a rank at the earliest possible time, usually because little Johnny’s mom got her boy to earn Star when he was still in the womb – I know you all have seen this in action.

    As a Scoutmaster it was disconcerting to have a boy show up with his mother’s apron strings attached and hand me 5 or 6 blue cards that had been signed by a MB counselor at a fair and have never discussed this with me prior. Did the boy earn his MB? well he did sit through the 5 one hour classes. Did he retain anything from this experience? not a bit. Do you tell them no? That’s a big question. This has happened and I did have to have that conversation with the boy and his parents. I set out clear expectations of what was needed for any future MB earning and it was followed typically after that exchange.

  56. There seems to be a perception, which unfortunately can be a reality, that a Merit Badge workshop or fair can become a merit badge mill. When I became the Dean of Merit Badges for Tomahawk District three years ago, there was a lack of advancement in regards to the merit badge curriculum. We have since held a merit badge fair on the first weekend of December and they have been successful in a number of ways. First, the Scouts eagerly anticipate them now (I can tell by the emails I get asking when they are and what badges we are doing). Second, the leaders now trust that what we do is a positive influence on the program. We only offer 8 to 10 badges. We make sure that months in advance the leaders and Scouts know what requirements they will need to complete before that day if they anticipate to earn the badge. Instruction is only given on certain requirements that will work in a group setting,. We only offer 2 or 3 Eagle required badges and we make sure to offer a couple of the badges that are least earned from the year before (so we can show the Scouts the vast variety of badges in the curriculum). Third, we are now using the event to raise FOS contributions by allowing “sponsorships” of certain badges.

    Even despite the great level of destruction to the personal lives of over 200 Scouting families in my district this past fall, we still managed to have 44 Scouts attend the December 2012 Merit Badge Fair. Stats for Dec. 1, 2012 Merit Badge Fair.
    Scouts – 44: Tomahawk District – 16 ( 588 – 6; 105 – 3, 139 – 9, 237 – 1); Founders District – 6 (351); Brukellen District – 12 (76 – 10, 96 – 2); Pathfinder District – 8 (390 – 7; 427 -1)
    MB Earned: 73 (Cit in Nation: 1; American Labor: 10; Electricity: 14; Medicine: 14; Cit in Community: 19; Cit in World: 14, Personal Management: 1)
    MB Partials: 48 (Cit in Nation: 13; American Labor: 2; Cit in Community: 6; Cit in World: 14, Personal Management: 13)

    We have also offered to have counselors do certain badges at troop meetings. I personally worked on Weather, Game Design and Scouting Heritage with 2 different troops in the last few months over a three week period.

  57. One other bit of minutiae I just noticed. On the old MB blue cards, the verbiage on the bottom of the page where the unit leader signature goes says “and is qualified to begin working on the Merit Badge listed on the reverse side” (this is pictured in the 2001 Guide to Advancement, section On the 2012 printing of the MB blue cards, it now says “I have discussed this merit badge with this Scout and recommended at least one merit badge counselor”. At least with the new blue cards are now in circulation, that should help reinforce the change.

  58. Our troop’s biggest rule on getting badges is that you CAN NOT use a councilor who’s a member of the troop. I think they want to prevent favoritism since we have a lot of active parents. The only badges earned with our own troop leadership are the cooking and camping badges done at the kid’s first troop summer camp. Our Scout Master doesn’t like workshops, but other than give a kid the stink eye, he doesn’t stop them.

  59. The Scoutmaster is always, and in EVERY case the last say in any Troop operations and policies. That is why we have Scoutmasters. If the Troop sponsor, or the Troop Committee has a problem with, or disagrees with the SM decisions, then they can either solve the problem with the Scoutmaster, or find a new one. The boys, or their parents cannot operate as they please. If the Troop Scoutmaster doesn’t allow MBs earned at a certain place, there is usually a reason. One year I let my Scouts attend a MB ‘Midway’. They came home with 3 or 4 MBs they had earned at a half hour class each. Needless to say, my Scouts are no longer allowed to earn MBs at this midway! We have too many 13-14 year old Eagle Scouts and this is one reason why. I am proud to know when I pin the Eagle Scout rank on a Scout, he has earned it.

    • 3-4 MB in a day sounds like a give away to me. Our scouts only earn 1 or 2 MB. Most MB offered are one day MB’s sessions. A few are 1/2 day MB’s. It comes down to the MB councilors and Integrity of the scouts.. I have seen too many Eagle Scouts that can’t even tie a square knot. It isn’t doing a scout a favor by giving away badges or ranks. Eventually their training or lack or training will come out. People this day think they are entitled to everything, but in the business world, it isn’t that way. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Scouting combats this welfare mentality.

      • I’m sorry Daryl, but your assertion that the troop answers to the SM is incorrect. The SM answers to the committee and charter org.

        • Daryl,

          That might have been what you were implying, but you made it sound like the SM is not wrong until he is fired. While the SM is the unit leader, s/he must still follow the guide to advancement and operate with the committee and obey the chartering organization. As the guide is written, if a youth and the unit leadership cannot come to a consensus on any advancement, including the Eagle rank, then the youth has the authority to work up the chain of command and override the troop’s decision at the council level.

          More importantly, what many of us think about in Boy Scout advancement is not correct. Many of us think that a Boy Scout must complete a task and master it to a certain level and then is tested over the skill or trait at either the end of the MB, at the scoutmaster conference, or at the board of review. If the youth failed the test at these meetings then he is not worthy for the next rank is not how we are suppose to do Scouting. The guide to advancement actually says

          It is important to remember that
          in the end, a badge recognizes the Scout has gone through
          an experience of learning something he didn’t previously
          know. As a result, through increased confidence, he
          discovers or realizes he is able to learn similar skills or
          disciplines. Advancement is thus about what a young man
          is now able to learn and to do, and how he has grown.
          Retention of skills and knowledge is then developed later
          by using what has been learned through the natural course
          of unit programming; for example, instructing others and
          using skills in games and on outings.
          Advancement, thus, is not so much a reward for what has
          been done. It is, instead, more about the journey: As a Scout
          advances, he is measured and he grows in confidence and
          self-reliance, and he builds upon his skills and abilities.
 2013 Guide to Advancement

          So a youth could have a really bad experience in cooking at a campout, but if he tried then he succeeded in that requirement. We should not be Judge Dredd to a boy who tries but a point of support and say “yeah, that did not work, but now we know how to do better” and then work with him in making it better.

      • Fingerprinting? There are a couple of Merit Badges that can be accomplished in 1 to 2 hours. Not saying that there could be some elaboration and cultural enrichment (for Fingerprinting MB a police station tour and police officer’s “war stories”), but here we are talking about the basic printed requirements.

        Reading and Scholarship MBs are basically checking off the requirements that were done before the meeting with the MB Counselor. This is true for many merit badges where a _diligent_ Scout has done the requirement and fulled out the worksheet in advance — and there is little left to do but some discussion.

      • The Troop Committee and/or the Troop Sponsor solving problems with the Scoutmaster is not the Scouting way?? Not mature??

  60. Daryl, My point is this. You say that the SM has the final say on all troop policy and procedure. Why does your unit need to set policy and procedure in the first place? All of the resources you need to run your unit the way its designed to run has already been provided to you. All you have to do is follow it. The SM’s job is to train youth to lead their troop. Period. Advancement is a committee responsibility. If you’re not happy with scouts earning badges at clinics, but your adv. chairperson is fine with it
    – it is your option to walk. You answer to the the committee. Not the reverse.

    • Diane, there may be Troops out there that operate as you say. If so, more power to them. But I can tell you in my 38 years as Scoutmaster, I have met very few Scoutmasters who’s only job was to ‘train youth to lead their Troop’. I know what the books tell you. And it all sounds great. But in actuality, most Troops wouldn’t last a week if all the Scoutmaster did was train boys to lead the Troop. I have 19 Scouts. I have a Troop Committee of 5 parents that are lucky to meet once a month for an hour. I’m going to rely on this Committee to handle Troop advancement?! You are living in a dream world.

      • Usually the SM does just about everything because the parents are too busy to help out with the troop. When you actually do get parents helping out, it is a blessing. But many times, you get some jerk that lets leadership go to their head and they want to control people, especially the SM, instead of working with people bringing them together as a team to assist the goals of the SM. Leadership is leading, politics is control. Two different camps here. There are too few people out there that are talented enough to work with the boys. Good SM’s are hard to come by. Usually if you get a poor CC and you get them on a camp out, they will get a dose of reality. They will usually come around to the SM’s view point.

      • If the parents are not on the Committee and helping out, there could be many reasons for it. First, could be that the parents are coming from a Pack and they do not understand what functions the Committee does? Did anyone have a meeting with the parents of the Scouts that just crossed over and tell them how Boy Scouts is different than Cub Scouts and what vacancies are on the committee? Our Troop never had that type of meeting, but again my son just crossed over. The SMs did have the time to have a “parent meeting” for summer camp that didn’t tell me much more than what I read on line. Second, could it be that the SM/ASMs so cliquish that they do not want additional help? Are they afraid of new ideas because we have always done it this way in the Troop? Third, could it be that the SM is not a delegator? Maybe he is one of these that believes that if he wants something done right, than he has to do it himself because other adults will not meet his standard. Like the Scouts, Troop Leadership needs to learn that just because an adult did it differently than they would have done it is still ok. Even if the final product is not as good as if the SM would have done it themselves.

        Why do I think some of these things could be the issue? Because I have experienced all of these in my relatively short “Scouter” career. Five years ago when my son joined as a Tiger, I did not know what I did not know. Only my doing lots of reading and attending all the training I could (on line and in person) did I start to figure out what I actually knew, what others thought were the policies, what the policies are in actuality, and what I still didn’t know. Even today, I still don’t know what I don’t know.

        After I attended BALOO training early on as an Assistant Den Leader, I marked the box on the evaluation that I was willing to serve on BALOO/OWL staff. I never heard from anyone for over two years despite knowing that they could have used additional help. I have over 23+ years training people so it could not be from a lack of “experience.” I finally got to serve on the BALOO/OWL staff because I kept running into the same people when I did Wood Badge, EDGE training, and other events. Either they got tired of me asking if they needed help or I finally broke the invisible barrier that got me into the clique.

        I have already completed my SM training, both indoors and out, with the first half done over 1/2 year before my son even crossed over. I have taken almost every course available on line (Safety Afloat, Safe Hiking, Weather, etc.). While I am now part of the Committee, I have not been asked to take on a role. We have a SM/ASM corps of over 7 adults (including some in college), but only one of the ASMs has a son in the troop. On our May campout, only two of the SMS could go. The Camping chair for the committee and I drove and camped for the weekend. The Troop was split into two groups, those going to Philmont and those not for the hike (major activity of the weekend). One SM went with each group along with one other adult as the two groups carried different packs (full pack vs day pack) and traveled at different speeds. If it was not for the Committee members who would have gone, the campout would have been canceled.

        What I am trying to get to is that if the parents are not doing anything, have they been asked? I found out that if I asked my parents in my Cub Scout den (I was an Asst DL or DL for 5 years) to do something, they usually did. What I did was have a primary activity in mind and a lesser role as a backup. If the adult said what I asked was too much because they were too busy (or whatever), I immediately said, “OK. If you cannot do X, can you do Y for me.” Almost every time, the adult would say “yes”. I got to the point where I would really want them to do “Y” so I created a larger “X” for them to turn down.

        We have a small Troop of about 20 Scouts in 2 patrols. During the meeting, at least 3-6 of the other parents stay but out of the meeting area. This usually includes the Advancement Chair (SPL’s Father), the Treasurer or her husband, and myself. In addition, several other parents hang around but who they are change from month to month. There is almost always enough to hold a BOR and if the SM/ASMs need help, all they have to do is asked. I don’t think I’ve heard any of our parents say “no” unless they already had a conflict with something else. But then maybe, I found a troop where the SM/ASM Corps & Committee are both fully operational.

  61. Ok, Daryl… I concede that with a troop as small as yours, the SM probably has a lot more to do than in a troop like mine. We have about 110 scouts and a very active committee which handles advancement and most other aspects of running the troop. This frees up the SM to do what he is intended to do. I hope that as your troop grows, you can relinquish some of the many hats you are currently wearing, and concentrate on training your unit to become boy-led. It’s not a dream world. It’s very real, and absolutely attainable.

  62. So under what circumstances under the new guidelines could a SM withhold a signature of a blue card? My district advancement chair seemed to indicate that a SM could simply not sign a blue card for a Scout, but that seemed to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new GTA.

    • Hopefully this section of the GTA will help you out.

      Once a Scout has been tested and signed off by
      someone approved to do so, the requirement has been
      met. The unit leader is accountable for ensuring proper
      advancement procedures are followed. A part of this
      responsibility includes the careful selection and training
      of those who approve advancement. If a unit leader
      believes a boy has not learned the subject matter for
      a requirement, he or she should see that opportunities
      are made available for the Scout to practice or teach
      the requirement, so in this way he may complete his
      learning and further develop his skills. 2013 Guide to Advancement

      So the Scoutmaster has the authority to approve who the counselor is and if he thinks the requirements were not met then see to it that another opportunity is available or try and have the youth become the instructor for another youth. The best way to learn something is to teach it.

      • The scoutmaster does not have the authority to approve the counselor. That’s a Council responsibility, sometimes delegated to the District. The section you have quoted from the GTA pertains to rank advancement. Check the Merit Badge section of the GTA for the role of the SM in that process.

  63. If you scroll back to the beginning of the talk on this subject, where Brian excerpts the new GTA guidelines you will have your answer. Bottom line, the SM cannot withhold the blue card, no matter the venue, as long as the counselor is properly registered with the council. That may mean some prior investigation must happen- particularly if the venue is a clinic or workshop.

  64. In my mythical “Troop A for advancement”,
    every Scout expects to get all 120 some MBs, so when they cross the WEBELOS bridge to Scouting, there is anr early request to the SM is for the Blue Cards for each and every Merit Badge, please.
    This gives them something to do in their spare time while waiting out the 30 days of exercise with the other requirements completed for the award of Tenderfoot/Second/First Class at the end of the month!!!!!

  65. Our troop’s scoutmaster has planned on limiting the boys to 2 active merit badges that they can work on for 2014. I’m not sure the details yet but this does seem interesting. Do any of your troops have a similar policy and what are the pros and cons you have seen?

    One one hand I think it keeps the boys focused on the MBs they have selected to work and it relieves MB counselors from checking in and planning activities; however, on the other hand, who cares if the boy has 20 outstanding blue cards.

    Would the scout turn in their blue card if they have abandoned work on a MB to start a new one?

    How does summer camp overlap with this rule?


    • my home troop did not have a limit of “active” merit badges, but when a scout came to the SM for a new blue card, the advancement chair (who held all the blue cards) would remind the youth of all of his outstanding blue cards and partial merit badges from summer camp. This usually got most of the youth to finish what they started, but some of the boys knew that, say, Archaeology was incomplete but they still wanted to start Space Exploration because they were no longer interested in archaeology and didn’t care in finishing that badge.

      With summer camp, we made it pretty clear that a summer activity was expected. either summer camp or a high adventure trip. This is because summer camping is a staple of Scouting and should not be seen as a “who is interested?” kind of thing. go ahead and plan on your younger youth to attend summer camp and have a high adventure trip planned every summer for your older youth. It will not be Philmont every summer, but with four national high adventure bases and many more council high adventure camps there is an option every summer for your youth. and if they don’t feel like being a camper, have them be summer camp staff! that was by far the best times I had in Scouting and the one thing I looked forward to every year for 6 years.

    • This is a bad rule, and not supported at all be the letter or the spirit of the GTA. A scout advances and earns merit badges at his own pace. The SM is not the gatekeeper of blue cards. He or she provides them to scouts that ask, discusses the MB with the scout, and provides the scout with the name of at least one council-approved MB counselor.

  66. I’ve been studying this for a while now. A troop does not have to organize, support one merit badge for a scout to earn Eagle. Merit badges are council managed activities and it’s completely up to the council to certify each counselor and merit badge earned and is really not up to a troop to decide one way or the other. The troop is responsible for making sure each scout masters the skills to earn First Class. The troop is responsible for making sure the patrol method is implemented. The troop is responsible for making sure scouts get to safely participate in outdoor activities. When it’s all over with and a scout reflects on his scouting years he will remember the basic skills the most. Merit Badges will just be something they did for a very short period of time. So as scout leaders we really need to focus on what’s important.

  67. all of this is interesting especially since my boys just crossed over to a Troop. I recently found out that this Troop does not meet during the summer or have any summer events except for summer camp. My boys asked to do some MB classes with another Council as they are helping out there for the summer and have been turned down. The reason given was that they want them to work on their rank to 1st Class (which they cannot do outside of Troop meetings or campouts). So what is supposed to keep them interested in Scouting during the summer besides one week of camp if the Troop doesn’t meet or do anything else?

  68. What about the reverse? Can a merit badge counselor refuse to work with scouts based on their age, rank or maturity? I have seen my council hold clinics that restrict by rank (must be first class or higher) for Citizenship in the World. Personal Management is another where I have seen clinics held that require boys to be 14 or First Class. Can a counselor make this decision?

  69. So why are these volunteers interfering with Scouts getting Merit Badges?

    I have one theory.

    As has been acknowledged to me by the National Council, as diplomatically referenced in the Guide to Advancement, and as I have witnessed over decades in numerous camps in several states, many council Summer Camps deliberately give out Merit Badges without providing for the absolutely “required” individual testing of the candidates on all – sometimes on any – of the requirements. That is, these camps structure and staff their Merit Badge Programs so that it is physically impossible to do the required individual testing, and, sure enough, it does not happen.

    The people in charge of these camps will tell you they cannot afford enough staff to do the required testing. Interesting conclusions they draw from those facts – for “Scouters.”

    I witnessed some Scouts last week get Wilderness Survival Merit Badge on their very first Scout campout. Oh, they did not nearly earn it. The “counselor” had a total of 15.5 minutes to give each candidate for testing on the twelve requirements and subparts. As he spent almost no time on individual testing, the issue did not arise.

    I have witnessed the same going on at Merit Badge Fairs and the like, although not nearly as commonly (And why a dramatic difference?).

    This pattern and practice has implications for meeting the Mission and Purposes of B.S.A. and for the simple credibility of Scouting in the United States as an organization and as a movement.

    What lesson do we teach the Scouts, including the staffers, with this pattern of behavior by Councils? Nothing good. Try, “Following the rules is for saps” or “Cheating pays.”

    So, my theory is that these volunteers, faced with what is an open, systematic betrayal of the values of Scouting and, in the process, a terrible lesson to the Scouts, are probably trying to model the Scout Law as they are bid to do: Trustworthy”; “Honor.” They are trying, in their own ways, to stop the cheating and the resulting devaluation of what is most important about Scouting.

    It would be nice for the honest camps to be able to stop advertising that they are “not a merit badge mill,” as so many feel compelled to do for obvious reasons

    I first raised this at National four years ago. I was told National could not see a way to enforce the rules – and, in the process, the Scout Law.

    Increasingly stern reminders have been issued warning that no council may change a tit or jot of the requirements. Of what I see and hear, the warnings seem to have been totally ignored. And the mills grind on.

    What does this say to the public about B.S.A.? Truth, however unpleasing, will come out. If not here, then elsewhere. Our enemies will rejoice and our friends will be horrified.

    Until someone at B.S.A. uses the power it has to compel camps to at least plan and organize on paper to follow the rules instead of planning and organizing to cheat, I have suggestions.

    Only a registered Merit Badge Counselor can sign a Blue Card after individual testing on each requirement. Guide to Advancement and

    A Merit Badge given out without compliance with the above has not been earned for any purpose by negative implication of Guide to Advancement and positive statement of Guide to Advancement

    1. Ask to see the registration papers of all Summer Camp “Counselors.” If they are not registered as such, their signature on a Blue Card is void, and no one who did not actually test can sign for them. If a registered Merit Badge Counselor did not test and sign, the Merit Badge has not been earned for any purpose.

    2. Monitor “sessions” to see if there is actual individual testing. If there is not and you do nothing, you need to find something else to do with your time. Instead, immediately fill out and send in this form to the council operating the camp with a copy to the Program Director, Camp Director, and the National Advancement Team. Follow-up on the form to determine council’s plan of corrective action.

    3. Do not patronize Merit Badge mills, and tell them why you are going elsewhere.

    4. If you appreciate council camps that do not cheat, tell them so.

    Time’s up.

  70. I am not a proponent of “Trail to Eagle” for required merit badges earned at our council camps. I spoke to one of my scouts about citizenship in the world merit badge earned at camp and he doesn’t even remember working on it. He has a blue card signed off and fortunately he is not going for Eagle. I have been the a district adv. person for 15 years and “trail to eagle’ gives me heartburn. Know of another scout that earned all the badges he signed up for and only attended a minimal amount of classes. Got them all in one week.
    Unfortunately they use the minimal amount of requirements to earn the badge without leaving camp. It is also a way to fast track scouts to eagle. I know it is a good way to boost money brought into a camp. My opinion, Hate it.

  71. Does Brian have an article on how parents should handle merit badge counselors who are signing off on merit badges that scouts don’t earn? That is my concern. I want me son to actually learn stuff. He doesn’t listen to me any more. I need other people to help. I’m counting on scouting to provide some of those people. My nephew came home with a cooking merit badge and all he did was throw a potato in a pot. I don’t want that to happen to my son.

    • Take your concerns to your son’s Scoutmaster.

      Let us know how that works out. Other steps can follow right up to the “home office,”

  72. I want to join the chorus of those who are alarmed and appalled at the frequent practice of signing off requirements (lower rank ones as well as merit badge requirements) where no individual testing has occurred or where corners are cut. I agree with many others that this practice cheapens the experience for the boys, discredits the institution, and teaches so many negative lessons opposed to the very ideals of scouting.

    I believe the tendency is motivated by misunderstanding of or disregard for the methods of scouting. Specifically an overemphasis on advancing in rank. I’m afraid that for many scouting is advancement while the other methods are not considered.

    It seems that National and/or councils could take care of this issue rather easily by introducing an audit system. Our gas pumps have stickers on them indicating when they were last inspected for accuracy. Financial institutions must regularly submit to audits. So, council camps, merit badge pow wows, and other merit badge teaching events all could be required to pass an audit before any of their merit badges would be valid.

    I am a member of our district advancement committee and a unit commissioner. I’ve been using my influence to teach the fundamentals of advancement as outlined in The Guide to Advancement. I am continually surprised at how many experienced scouters seem completely ignorant of this document or of the practices outlined in it. A second recommendation would be that the next iteration of Leader Specific Training include a much greater emphasis on just how advancement should be administered. Greater emphasis on the Testing phase would especially be helpful. Most units I’m aware of are run be wonderful well-meaning people who want the best for the boys but who don’t differentiate between Teaching a skill and Passing one off. Generally speaking, boys who are present when something is taught are passed off on that skill whether they paid attention, did anything, or know anything new or not! Simply requiring an adequate space between Teaching and Testing would fix a majority of the problems I observe.

    This is a critical issue. Thanks for bringing up such important things and providing a forum like this.

  73. Very interesting post. I am a Merit Badge Counselor and I do teach at weekend camps, summer camps, etc. I have witnessed merit badge classes were the boy earns the badge by being able to make it through the lecture.

    Our organizer(s) place the responsibility with us (MBC). I have felt the pressure from Scouts, Scouters, parents, etc to fast track the courses and sign-off their Scout if he attended. However, I tend to work with groups that do encourage the MBC to challenge and test their students.

    In order for me to make the merit badge fun and interesting – I keep to the subjects I truly love to share. Wood Work, Painting, Entrepreneurship, American Business, etc. I strive to dig deeper than the merit badge book and present items/ideas that Scouts may not experience with another MBC.

    Why did I mention all of this? It would be much easier for me and other MBC’s if all leaders would support the Scout actually earning the badge instead of being able to stay awake for it. Again, the biggest amount of pressure is from parents who expect to ‘pay for play’ – and I just can’t do that.

    I love what I teach and I take great strides in expanding my knowledge as well as the Scouts. Keeo encouraging the MBC’s to require actual completion of a badge and communicate with parents who are not ready to accept this.

  74. It has been truly amazing to read these 226 comments. Here is what I have taken away from this.
    1. The BSA has a clear policy on the merit badge process.
    2. “I’ve heard about 8 merit badges in an hour, but not in my council”.
    3. Some scouters try to follow it as best they can, and some could care less what the policy is, they are going to run their program any way they want.
    4. Most scouters would like for it to get “better”, but neither group really has any desire or will to change the process of the people that they think are doing it wrong.
    5. Next year when there is a post about merit badges, we will get the same responses.

    • “Neither group”?

      Group 1. Some volunteers support merit badge millery out of the mistaken belief that Scouting is “all about Eagles.”

      Group 2. Some volunteer fight merit badge millery by boycotting the camps that use it.

      Group 3. Only the paid people can stop it cold, but that is not happening. In fact, the mills are run by the paid people’s orders to let the mills grind on” to promote attendance.”

      And as this is unlikely to change, the same comments will be appropriate next year and every year thereafter until the Values of Scouting mean something to those with the power to force reform of this disgrace.

      A Scout is Trustworthy..

  75. Wow. Jesus. Jesus. I’m a merit badge councilor both at a summer camp and for my home troop. I am also an Eagle Scout. I have been involved in the program since I was in elementary school. The scouts need the ability to complete merit badges at camp. That’s the long and short of it. Helicopter parents need to be kicked out of the room. Scouting is a youth run, youth led organization. If the adults are infringing upon the youths leadership, they are not allowing the SPL and the ASPLs to grow and learn. This is wrong.

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