Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 3

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

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

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

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

Let’s go … 

(1) No such thing as too many

Question from Tracy: “How did you answer those parents and Scouters who make light of the fact a Scout has earned a lot of merit badges? They refer to it as his collection and imply he hasn’t really earned them all.”

Answer from Bryan: Sounds like those parents need to mind their own business. It’s one thing if they have reason to believe the Scout isn’t properly completing all merit badge requirements. In that case, they should privately meet with the Scoutmaster or his merit badge counselor. Otherwise, I see nothing wrong with Scouts earning large numbers of merit badges. The program is designed to match the wide-ranging interests of teenage boys. Why fault a boy who wants to expand his horizons beyond the minimum number of MBs required for Eagle?

(2) What’s Cooking?

Question from Denise: “My son is a 14-year-old Scout, and he earned the Cooking merit badge his first year. Assuming it takes him another three to four years to earn Eagle, will the Cooking badge count as an Eagle badge or a regular badge? If cooking is now an Eagle badge are they upping the number of badges he needs to earn?”

Answer from Bryan: Cooking merit badge becomes Eagle-required on Jan. 1, 2014. As I mentioned in my Cooking MB FAQs post, any Scout who earns Eagle after Jan. 1 needs Cooking merit badge. But Denise’s son has already earned it, so he’s good. No boy needs to re-earn Cooking MB. As to the second part of Denise’s question, the total number of merit badges required for Eagle will remain unchanged at 21. The only change is in the split between Eagle-required and elective. As of Jan. 1, 2014, a boy will need 13 Eagle-required and eight elective instead of 12 and nine.

(3) Been there, done that

Question from John: “Our troop will not count toward advancement serving in the same leadership position twice. Is this a BSA policy or just our troop policy? We can see both the pros and cons to this and thought we would ask for other points of view.”

Answer from Chris Hunt, BSA Advancement Team: “The requirement simply says to serve in one or more positions of responsibility. It does not say serve in position of responsibility that you have not already served in. A troop may organize its operation such that Scouts end up serving in different positions so they get a variety of experiences, and that would be a good thing. But including a parameter that a Scout must serve in a different position in order to advance represents adding to the existing requirements and is not permitted.”

(4) Who’s on stage?

Question from Terri: I cannot find anything about entertainment at the Jamboree. I have a Boy Scout and a Venturer attending. Can you give us any information on this?”

Answer from Bryan: I’ve been told there are no plans to announce the musical acts in advance. But as someone who’s seen the lineup, I can say your Scout and Venturer won’t be disappointed by the entertainment at either stadium show.

(5) Pin it on him

Question from Alan: “Does BSA have a specific requirement or recommendation for who is to pin the Eagle Scout Medal on to the new Eagle Scout?”

Answer from Chris Hunt, BSA Advancement Team: “The National Advancement Team has established no guidelines on who should present Eagle medals, but we would offer as a ‘best practice’ that it should be someone who will leave a lasting memory for the Scout. The emphasis on the Scout is intentional. My grandfather—a distinguished Scouter in his own right—presented my medal, and I’ll never forget the experience. To others, the Scoutmaster who changed a Scout’s life or the den leader who shined a light onto the possibility of a bright future would be the right presenter. Another approach might be to consider a Scout’s life ambitions. The local mayor might be the right presenter for a Scout interested in community leadership or political science, or the inspirational teacher for the Scout who is considering becoming an educator. Think about the presenters who will add value to the Scout’s experience, as we continue to work with him toward the aims to develop citizenship, character, and personal fitness.”

(6) In the loop

Question from Chad: “I stumbled across your site while I was looking for a simple ‘guide’ to currently available square knots that can be worn on the Scouting uniform. Is there a simple guide which shows what knots can be worn/earned/given to a youth Scout, and what can currently be worn/earned by an adult?

Answer from Bryan: A youth may wear the silver-on-purple religious emblem knot, the Heroism Award, Honor Medal, Medal of Merit, the James E. West knot, Venturing Leadership Award, Venturing Silver Award, William T. Hornaday Award, Sea Scout Quartermaster Award, and OA Distinguished Service Award. Once he becomes an adult, he may wear the Arrow of Light knot and Eagle Scout or Eagle Scout NESA Life Membership knot. (Thanks to all who pointed out the error in this original answer!) For more info, check out my guide to square knots, including an explanation of how to earn adult knots and sew them on right-side-up.

(7) Belt it out

Question from Patt: “I’ve been stationed overseas in a couple of different countries and have participated in international Scouting events. One item in particular I like to wear is a leather belt designed to look like the World Scout Movement Knot. Is it wrong to wear this unofficial belt with my official uniform?”

Answer from Bill Evans, BSA Program Impact Department: “The only program where we offer the option of wearing any belt of choice is the Venturing program.  Cub Scouts are very specific on which belt to wear, while the direction for wearing the green and khaki Boy Scout uniform only offers two options: official uniform belt or a leather camp, high-adventure base, or Wood Badge belt.”

Reference: Page 14 of the Guide to Awards and Insignia (PDF).

(8) PROJECT? What project?

Question from John: “Advancement requires serving in a position of responsibility or a leadership project. (‘While a First Class Scout, serve actively in your unit for four months in one or more of the following positions of responsibility, or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the unit.’) What are some examples of these types of projects?

Answer from Chris Hunt, BSA Advancement Team: “We don’t normally provide examples for this sort of thing because we don’t want to establish a ‘standard.’ It’s better if both youth leaders and adult leaders brainstorm prospective projects that will help the individual unit. That said, it’s hard to resist coming up with an example. But remember, it’s just an example from one Scouter to another that maybe could generate that brainstorming. If I were a Scoutmaster I would probably have a mental list of things I would like to see improved. Maybe there are behavioral issues, for example, that might be resolved if Scouts who are not involved in troop leadership were to give input and take ownership of the solutions. A leadership project might then be to assemble a Scout focus group and give leadership to the creation of a troop code of conduct that all the Scouts could accept. Such a code would have to be drafted and edited, perhaps reviewed by all the Scouts in the troop for input, and be reviewed by the PLC for further adjustments. The Scout could then present the code to the troop committee for its review, and finally have it printed and signed by all the Scouts.

(9) One task, two requirements?

Question from Dave: Can a single task satisfy the requirements of two (or more) separate merit badges? For example, Scouts in my troop are going to visit a courthouse and view live court to satisfy a requirement for the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.  Can they use that same visit to satisfy a requirement for the Law merit badge? My instinct is no, Scouts need to complete each merit badge independently, but I thought I would Ask the Expert.”

Answer from Chris Hunt, BSA Advancement Team: “We address this in the revised Guide to Advancement, which should be released within the next 30 days. It will be posted on scouting.org first as a PDF and then printed and distributed to Scout Shops. The book is in final editing and the actual wording may get some minor adjustments. If folks follow us on Twitter they will be the first to know about the release of GTA 2013.”

4.2.3.6 Fulfilling More Than One Requirement With a Single Activity

From time to time it may be appropriate for a Scout to
apply what was done to meet one requirement toward
the completion of another. In deciding whether to allow
this, unit leaders or merit badge counselors should
consider the following.

When, for all practical purposes, two requirements match
up exactly and have the same basic intent—for example,
camping nights for Second Class and First Class ranks
and for the Camping merit badge—it is appropriate
and permissible, unless it is stated otherwise in the
requirements, to use those matching activities for both
the ranks and the merit badge.

Where matching requirements are oriented toward
safety, such as those related to first aid or CPR,
the person signing off the requirements should be
satisfied the Scout remembers what he learned from
the previous experience.

Some requirements may have the appearance of
aligning, but upon further examination actually differ.
These seemingly similar requirements usually have
nuances intended to create quite different experiences.
The Communication and Citizenship in the Community
merit badges are a good example. Each requires the
Scout to attend a public meeting, but that is where the
similarity ends. For Communication, the Scout is asked to
practice active listening skills during the meeting and
present an objective report that includes all points of
view. For Citizenship, he is asked to examine differences
in opinions and then to defend one side. The Scout may
attend the same public meeting, but to pass the
requirements for both merit badges he must actively listen
and prepare a report, and also examine differences in
opinion and defend one side.

When contemplating whether to double-count service hours
or a service project, and apply the same work to pass a
second advancement requirement, each Scout should ask
himself: “Do I want to get double credit for helping others
this one time, or do I want to undertake a second effort and
make a greater difference in the lives of even more
people?” To reach his decision, each Scout should follow
familiar guideposts found in some of those words and
phrases we live by, such as “helpful,” “kind,” “Do a Good
Turn Daily,” and “help other people at all times.”

As Scout leaders and advancement administrators, we
must ask ourselves an even more pointed question: “Is it
my goal to produce Scouts who check a task off a list or
Scouts who will become the leaders in our communities?”
To answer our own question, we should consult the same
criteria that guide Scouts.

Thanks to all the Scouters who sent in questions and to BSA experts Bill Evans and Chris Hunt.

Be ahead of the game

Scouters who follow the BSA Advancement Team on Twitter (@advbsa) are usually the first to know about advancement changes.

See if your question has already been answered

Before submitting your question, browse through previous Ask the Expert posts.

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I can’t track down all the answers, but send your Ask the Expert questions to me and I’ll do my best.


Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by ed_needs_a_bicycle

About Bryan Wendell 2817 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.