Here’s one for your browser’s bookmarks bar: The newest edition of the Boy Scouts of America Guide to Advancement released today.
The PDF version contains answers to pretty much any advancement question that might come up, and it’s essential reading for your unit’s advancement chair and others who like to be kept in the loop on all things advancement.
You’ll want to spend some time with this user-friendly guide. Consider downloading the PDF to your tablet for portable reading. Or print off a copy on recycled paper and keep it handy.
There’s so much inside the guide that it’s pointless for me to go into too much detail here. But I did want to draw your attention to five takeaways I gathered from a first look at the guide:
1 – No unauthorized advancement changes (Page 2)
Right there on Page 2, the Guide to Advancement answers one question I hear from quite a few Scouters: “Can my unit tweak this requirement in this way?”
The answer is no. While program elements are customizable at the unit, district and council level, advancement is not. In other words:
No council, committee, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements. There are limited exceptions relating only to youth members with special needs. For details see section 10, “Advancement for Members With Special Needs.”
2 – Significant changes to the 2013 edition (Page 7)
Section 22.214.171.124 is a great service to Scouters who have been handling advancement in their unit for some time.
It painstakingly outlines all of the changes, additions, deletions and clarifications to requirements since the last Guide to Advancement was published in 2011.
One example of a big change is 126.96.36.199, which now states that:
… [In] situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit.
Other changes apply to the merit badge program, boards of review, the Eagle Scout rank and the mechanics of advancement.
3 – Frequently asked questions (Page 9)
If you have a question about advancement, Section 188.8.131.52 should be your first stop. The questions are organized by program, and the answers are a location within the Guide to Advancement where the full explanation can be found.
What does “active participation” mean? May a Scout choose any registered merit badge counselor? How is the decision of a board of review appealed?
It’s all in there, plus more.
4 – The big picture — and the little one
What I’ve always appreciated about the Guide to Advancement is that it explains the overall aims of the advancement program within the Boy Scouts of America before focusing on the little details. That’s still the case in 2013’s update.
The guide covers the four steps in advancement: learning, testing, reviewing, recognizing. It reminds us all that advancement is just one of Scouting’s many methods, meaning there’s a lot more to the program than badges, belt loops and beads. And it explains that “personal growth is the primary goal.”
It’s only after prefacing the advancement program with those reminders that you get the drilled-down details.
5 – Contact info
If after reading the 100-page guide cover to cover you’re still lost, that’s fine. The guide includes some suggested ways to contact the BSA’s friendly Advancement Team:
Note that the national Advancement Team addresses many questions through its Twitter feed (@AdvBSA) and through the e-newsletter, Advancement News. To subscribe to Advancement News, send your name, email, and council name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The national Advancement Team is available for recommendations or for questions that cannot be handled locally. Suggested corrections to this publication are also gratefully accepted. Send questions and comments to email@example.com, or mail them to National Advancement Team, Program Impact Department, S209, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079.
Suggestions for new merit badges should be directed to the BSA Innovation Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, of course, I’m always available to help track down your questions for my Ask the Expert series.