About that letter Scouts must write for Citizenship in the Nation MB

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Americans have dissected every word of our U.S. Constitution ever since it was created.

Same goes for requirement 8 of Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. It reads:

Name your two senators and the member of Congress from your congressional district. Write a letter about a national issue and send it to one of these elected officials, sharing your view with him or her. Show your letter and any response you receive to your counselor.

A Scouter named Mark has encountered some merit badge counselors who amend that requirement by reading beyond what’s on the page.

Merit badge requirements must be completed as written; nothing should be added or removed. But just like we do when reading the U.S. Constitution, sometimes it’s helpful to seek out experts to understand exactly how to parse every word.

First, let’s read about Mark’s conundrum:

Citizenship-in-the-NationFirst, some merit counselors are requiring boys to hand-write their letter to their member of Congress. Is that a necessary, or even appropriate “requirement?” Due to time constraints, handling costs and safety considerations, our state’s congressional delegation much prefers correspondence by email, preferably through their own dedicated web pages. Unless I’m missing the main point of the requirement, and it is in fact an exercise in penmanship, it seems to me that these counselors are adding to the requirement.

Second, the requirement includes: “Show your letter and any response you receive to your counselor.” Unfortunately, the wording of that sentence is open to a fair amount of interpretation. Some MB counselors are stating, flat-out, that the requirement has not been completed until a reply has been received and has been presented to the counselor. I read it a little differently; the word “any” seems to imply that if a reply is not received after a reasonable period of waiting, the requirement can be signed off as complete.

Who is right?

Thanks for the question, Mark.

For the answer, let’s go to the expert: Mike Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s Content Management Team:

For requirement 8, the Scout is to first name his two senators and his member of congress.

The letter he writes can be handwritten, typed, typed and emailed, or written through the member’s website. He does however, need to show this letter to his counselor.

If he should receive a response, he should show that to his counselor as well. There is no guarantee he will get a response.

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About Bryan Wendell 2903 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.