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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 1: Who can purchase merit badges?


Who can purchase Merit Badges? What is BSA policy?

I would think this would be a simple question but it has recently become something of an issue. Previously, we were able to purchase the merit badges and awards at our Scout Store without issue and had them on hand to provide as soon as the Scouts earned them.

Now we are being told to purchase a merit badge we must provide proof the merit badges were earned and they must be purchased by the Advancement Chair.  This places more work on our Advancement Chair and leaves our Scouts waiting up to a month for their achievement.

We have enough trouble keeping Scouts interested and excited about Scouting. Making them wait makes it harder yet.

I know Scouting can be a drug to some but treating merit badges as a controlled substance is not the answer.

Is this BSA policy or a local bureaucrat creating policy?

— B.W.

Chris responds:

It is BSA policy that all rank advancement and merit badges must be reported in order for them to be purchased. This is explained in the Guide to Advancement in topic

Advancement is one of the most important measures of success in Scouting. If reporting is not required then advancement is under-reported. Unreported merit badges also causes difficulties in verification of the Eagle Scout Rank Application.

Units may report advancement through Internet Advancement or on the paper advancement report form. Both these methods can be explained by someone at the local council service center.

“Proof” that a merit badge has been earned comes in the form of either showing it listed next to a Scout’s name on the paper report form, or producing the printed report generated by Internet Advancement that shows the merit badge. Councils do not have the authority to require that a certain person in the unit purchase merit badges or that “blue card” copies be submitted, if that’s what is happening.

Question 2: Can a Scoutmaster refuse to give a blue card?


Thank you for your blog.

What are the valid reasons a Scoutmaster can use to refuse to give a Scout a blue card? A particular example that is of issue in our troop is having too many outstanding partial merit badges. If a boy has three or more partials the Scoutmaster will not give him more because of this troop policy.

— P.N.

Chris responds:

The policies regarding blue cards changed with the release of the 2013 edition of the Guide to Advancement. See topic Unit leaders do not have the authority to refuse to give a Scout a blue card.

The signature on a blue card signifies, simply, that the unit leader has had a discussion about the badge with the Scout and that the Scout has been provide the name of at least one registered and approved counselor.

The discussion should cover what the Scout might face as he challenges the badge. The SM could also suggest that it would be wise for a Scout to finish up the badges he’s already begun, and so on. The Scout, however, regardless the advice of the SM, is free to pursue the badge.

He may also choose a different registered and approved counselor if he wants to. The blue card has been revised and reprinted to reflect this change, but there are still many old blue cards out there.

Question 3: How do I interpret Requirement 10 for First Class?

Hi Bryan,

I have a parent that is disputing Requirement 10 for First Class.  He says that the sole act of asking someone, whether they come or not to an activity, is enough. I disagree, as several Scouts in our troop met that requirement with no issues by bringing a friend to an activity. Just wanted to check with someone before I make my final decision to the troop.

Requirement 10 reads, “Tell someone who is eligible to join Boy Scouts, or an inactive Boy Scout, about your troop’s activities. Invite him to a troop outing, activity, service project or meeting. Tell him how to join, or encourage the inactive Boy Scout to become active.”

— A.Z.

Chris responds: 

Advancement requirements are to be implemented as they are written. Requirement 10 says the boy to be asked must be “eligible to join” or be one who is “inactive.” It says to “tell” the boy about the troop’s activities, and then it says to “invite” the boy to either an outing, activity, service project, or meeting.

It does not say the boy must show up at any of these four kinds of opportunities, or that the boy must join. That said, it’s better if the boy actually shows up and then joins, but this isn’t required, and unit leaders do not have the authority to add to requirements.

In some circumstances it may be difficult to get someone to actually show or join. For example, in some rural areas there may only be a few eligible boys available, and it is possible none of them may be able to get to an activity or join the unit. If it is suspected that Scouts are inviting boys who they know are not interested in joining, or who would find it practically impossible to get to an activity or to join, then this would be a subject to explore at a board of review. Scout spirit could be at issue.

Previous Ask the Expert posts

Find many more answers to questions from Scouters by browsing past Ask the Expert post.

Follow the Advancement Team on Twitter

Like being the first to know about advancement news? Follow @advbsa on Twitter.

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by rocket ship

About Bryan Wendell 3286 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.