Merit badge counselors: Facts about limits and counseling family members

expertlogo1I get a lot of questions about merit badge counselors, so today I’ll answer three I’m frequently asked.

My source for all of these answers: This page in the 2015 Guide to Advancement. That’s a good reminder to look there first for your merit-badge-related questions. Not to say I mind hearing from you, of course!

Today I’ll answer:

  • Is there a limit to the number of merit badges an individual may counsel?
  • Is there a limit to the number of merit badges a Scout may earn from a single counselor?
  • Can someone counsel his or her own family member?

Here we go …

Is there a limit to the number of merit badges an individual may counsel?

Short answer: The National Council doesn’t set a limit, but local councils may do so as long as it doesn’t limit a Scout’s choices and become a barrier to advancement.

Long answer: Here’s the relevant part of the “Guide to Advancement”:

The National Council places no limit on the number of merit badges an individual may be approved to counsel, except to the extent a person lacks skills and education in a given subject. The intent is for Scouts to learn from those with an appropriate level of expertise.

Although it is permissible for councils to limit the number of badges that one person counsels, it must not do so to the point where Scouts’ choices, especially in small or remote units, are so limited as to serve as a barrier to advancement.

Is there a limit to the number of merit badges a Scout may earn from a single counselor?

Short answer: The National Council doesn’t set a limit, but a unit leader may do so as long as that rule applies to everyone in the unit.

Long answer: Here’s the relevant part of the “Guide to Advancement”:

Neither does the National Council place a limit on the number of merit badges a youth may earn from one counselor.

However, 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.

Can someone counsel his or her own family member?

Short answer: Yes. But it’s preferable to broaden a Scout’s horizons whenever possible or practical.

Long answer: Here’s the relevant part of the “Guide to Advancement”:

Approved counselors may work with and pass any member, including their own son, ward, or relative.

Nevertheless, we often teach young people the importance of broadening horizons. Scouts meeting with counselors beyond their families and beyond even their own units are doing that. They will benefit from the perspectives of many “teachers” and will learn more as a result. They should be encouraged to reach out.


Photo from Flickr: All rights reserved by IU Kokomo

58 Comments

  1. I really recommend not using family members as MBCs. In some cases the family member expects more from the Scout taking the MB than other, non-family member, Scouts.

    On the opposite extreme, I have seen a case or two where the majority of the MBs a scout was earned from family members, and the Scouts in question could not answer any conversational questions ( stressing conversation, not an interrogation or a BOR) about the MBs he was wearing on the sash.

    “The badge represents what a Scout can do, not what he has done.”

    • Requiring more, is not as important as requiring enough. The two examples presented are not opposites. One is a comparison of relative adherence to the requiremnts and one is an objective evalution of how well the Scout understood and reetianed the knowledge. Comparing one counsellor to another is like judge shopping for a verdict or taking the “easy” teacher in school. Sure you may get the MB signed off on, but did you learn what you were supposed to? It is not a matter of comparing MVB counsellors to each other in how “tough” they are, but coparing each counsellor’s methods to the requirements. If a parent is tougher than a lax MB counsellor, that is a good thing.

    • My son went for the non eagle badges as well at first. He earned a lot of badges in the first year. Not as many each year after. He is now 15 earned his eagle scout along with 94 merit badges. He is sophomore in high school so he isn’t able to do badges anymore except during summers. he now can earn eagle palms. I did sign up for a few because he couldn’t find counselors, but he also invited his friends to do it also. He almost always found someone different If possible. It though wasn’t always possible. I am sure the number was under 10 can’t remember. A few my husband and more from me. He found people in his life teachers friends moms, neighbors and had them sign up to be counselors.

  2. One of the major reasons that MBC’s can work multiple badges and with their children is to support the Lone Scout program, which while smaller, is an amazing way for boys to become Scouts when they are either not near a local troop or have disabilities which might otherwise prohibit participation in a traditional troop. This is a great example of the requirements offering flexibility to make Scouting accessible to as many youth as possible.

    • Modern “Lone Scout program” is one of the most under used aspects of the BSA program. Most Scouters (and many professionals) know little about LS and tend to think that it is limited ‘sons of lighthouse keepers.”
      Few SMs or troops ever think of Long Scouting as an alternative to the Scout who is slipping out of their meeting-every-week and monthly-outing grasp. ….

      • Lone Scouting isn’t an “alternative” to Scouting. Lone Scouting is an option when Scouting with a Troop isn’t available or accessible. If your Scout (or you) don’t get along with the Troop, Lone Scouting is not for you.

  3. I won’t counsel for my own kids – unless part of a group MB. As Scoutmaster, I won’t even do their scoutmaster conferences for rank! My older son needs his SMC for Life, and I’ll have him go to one of our former SMs for this. We had an instance where we suspect a parent/counselor rubber-stamped a ton of MBs for his son, so as a unit, we’re more aware of this.

  4. Our council limits the number of merit badges a counselor can sign up for (10) and the number that a counselor may do with a single boy(5). I have seen examples in the past where a boy has earned 50+ merit badges and his parents just happened to be counselors for most of those. In our troop, I personally encourage parents to be counselors but not for their own sons unless it is a group activity, we recently had a father that was a lawyer do the law merit badge with the troop.

  5. As a Merit Badge Counselor for several Eagle-Required merit badges and a couple of electives… I several limit merit badges I do with my son, much to the dismay of his mother. He will have one a Eagle-required signed off by me and has one elective from me, both of which I do with the troop.
    I don’t even want the illusion that I just signed off on his requirements.

  6. My son’s troop doesn’t use merit badge counselors…scouts earn merit badges 3 ways: at camp, through group activities, or by parent sign off. It all boils down to a bunch of names being given to the advancement chair. It seems to me that the district or council should get the blue cards and make sure the person signing off is a registered merit badge counselor. For instance, the entire troop (and 3 Webelos) earned the geocaching merit badge in the span of 5 hours.

    • This is so wrong on so many levels. Parents CANNOT sign off on a Blue Card unless they are a Merit Badge Counselor (MBC) for that particular Merit Badge (MB). There are some requirements where a parent may send a “note” to the MBC that an activity was completed such as “Johnny Scout cooked meals at the house for the past 2 days. These were X, Y, & Z per his meal plan.” I usually refuse to do this alone & take a photo of my son doing the activity along with the note.

      Second, Webelos CANNOT earn any MB until they have crossed over & joined a Troop. The work must be done while a Boy Scout NOT as a Webelos.

      Third, there is a form in the 2013 Guide to Advancement (GTA) that one can report poor MBCs to the District/Council Advancement Chair. When there is an issue such as the entire geocaching MB in 5 hours (how can all of them have set up their only geocach for others to use in that time), then the MBC needs to be turned in.

      • I understand, but are we going to say MBU’s cannot have geocaching as a badge? It’s done in just a little over 5 hours. MBU’s usually start at 8 and end at 3:30 or 4:00. with an hour lunch thrown in there. Granted, there are some pre-requisites that scouts are supposed to have before coming if they expect to be signed off on at the event. It’s a big favorite around here.

    • Geocaching is 5 hours does not sound UNreasonable.
      I just looked at the requirements and
      would like to think that the Scout (s) started with a fair knowledge and experience with a magnetic compass and topological maps,
      some hands-on time with a GPS unit (even just a car dash display),
      and excluding the time for reading the MB booklet.

      (the rest of this unique troop’s ideas on merit badges is another topic.)

  7. Here’s a couple common questions you missed:

    Q: “Can a Scoutmaster sign off on ‘partials’ (partially completed blue cards – often left over from summer camp)?

    A: A Scoutmaster can only sign off on a partial if he or she is a merit badge counselor for that merit badge.

    Q: How long does a Scout have to finish a merit badge once it’s started?

    A: It used to be one year. Now it is until his 18th birthday.

    • Robert…do you have a reference that says it used to be one year? I have a number Advancement policies books back to 1915 and can’t find the one year reference. I do have one (Circa 1937) that says that if a scout isn’t making reasonable progress on a badge within a month’s time, the MBC returns the MB application to inform the SM so he can ask the scout what’s going on.

      • Sorry, I don’t have a reference for the “used to be one year” comment. I’ve heard it so often that I assumed it was policy at one point.

      • I don’t think there was ever a “1-year rule” for Merit Badges. It is something that some troops did that was always against the national policies.

      • I kn ow the former New Orleans Area Council use to say that partials from summer camp had to be completed within a year, or you had to take the MB over again.

        • Ah, there’s a curious distinction. A merit badge counselor should honor his or her partials.

          However, a merit badge counselor has no obligation to honor someone else’s partially completed blue card.

          If a summer camp has staff changes, the director may very well set a policy that Scouts need to start a new blue card, and that’s not a BSA policy violation.

        • From p51 of the Advancement Guide – “Partials have no expiration except the Scout’s 18th birthday. Units, districts, or councils shall not establish other expiration dates for partial merit badges.”
          Note, there is no exception for Summer Camps. If it is the same counselor, there is no legitimate reason not to honor a partial.

        • We’re saying the same thing. “If” it’s the same counselor, then yes, the Scout should be able to continue his work. But summer camps have turnover, and therein lies the rub.

    • Robert

      I have several Merit Badges that I started when I was a youth member that I never finished. An example of partial Merit Badges I had were Rifle and Shotgun. For both I completed everything except the shooting requirement. Another example is Rowing MB, which took me two years to finish. As a youth I had horrible coordination issues and couldn’t get the row boat to go straight, until I had a nice little sit down with a leader who solved the problem. Both these situations happened in 2005 so I know that there hasn’t been a one year rule since then.

      However, I do like it when Scouts don’t drag out how long it takes them to complete a MB and complete them in a reasonable amount of time. The one Merit Badge that I could think of that with reasonable expectations would take over a year would be camping because of the 20 days and nights requirement.

  8. I am a homeschooling Scouter, who refuses to sign my son off on the MB. We had a great time seeking out “experts” in various subjects. He earned 23 MB on Monday, which were all earned since June 9th. He went to two weeks of summer camps, took advantage of our local nature center, and attended various MB offerings in the state and neighboring state. We love to enhance the knowledge for MB topics by going to museums and the like. I enjoy seeing my son’s increased interest in various subjects. The goal is to earn all of the MB, so he can become a well-rounded Eagle Scout.

    • I don’t home school, but my son has a goal to earn all the Merit Badges also. In 21 months, he has earned 73 Merit Badges. I too send him to 2 summer camps in different councils each of the last 2 years & take advantage of almost every Merit Badge Fair within reasonable distance.

      I hope your son reaches his goal as my son will have a difficult time with Bugling since he doesn’t play a horn. There is no use setting low goals. Aim high & when one fails, it will still be higher than most people ever reach.

      • Thanks for your message. I also seek out the opportunities within reasonable distance. I finally created an ongoing list of MB opportunities and share it with our troop. My hope is to get more of the boys to go to earn MB. It has been very well received and the Scoutmaster and others are very pleased. I am in mid-Michigan, so if anybody is near me, I’d be glad to share what I find. My email is michigan_teacher@yahoo.com

        • I’m in the U.P. We usually have to merit badge universities. One at NMU and the other at Michigan Tech. It’s a long drive for you, but the scenery here is beautiful, and the events are well run.

        • Thanks Robert! I love the UP and would love to take him up there for those! I had tried to look them up before, but only saw past events. If you can let me know when they happen, I’d greatly appreciate it. Btw, we took a trip up to Copper Harbor in late August and visited many UP towns. I started to explore the Mining in Society MB by touring the old Delaware Mine, other mines, and the Copper Museum and National Park Museum in Calumet. We haven’t located a counselor yet, but had a lot of fun.

        • The NMU event was a few weeks ago, but the Tech event is coming up in mid-winter. The easiest to use resource for events hereabouts is: http://www.askmarvin.org/ You’ll see a lot of local events posted right on the homepage, but the homepage always lists merit badge opportunities, too.

      • Just report the grammar or typo error – I think it was supposed to be ‘he earned his 23rd MB on Monday’. Even then 23 MBs in 5 months? 71 in 21 months? Maybe my son and I am going about this all wrong, he’s earned 2 in his first 10 months. But maybe that is what I am missing – are these more advanced scouts or in their first 5 or 21 months? I feel our troop activities & pursuit of advancement keep us so busy, we don’t seek MBs at least not heavily in year 1. We’ve also been disappointed in low rigor of some fast track MBs at camps or the merit badge university approach.

        • My son doesn’t play sports. We limit his TV & computer time. He has no cell phone, Wii, or other video game device. He attends about 99% of all Troop activities along with many other district/council activities. I provide his transportation to take care of requirements that need assistance. I have a lot of contacts so I was able to have him speak to an architect before going to a local musuem for the Architecture MB. I have found that people are more than happy to share either their hobbies or vocation with Scouts. I have very few that have ever said no when asked.

          As a Parent NOT the MBC, I make sure that he is prepared for the Merit Badge event that he goes to as we go to many of them as long as they are in a reasonable commuting distance. First, I make sure he reads the Merit Badge pamphlet. Second, he reads the requirements to me. We then discuss each one and whether this particular one will be difficult to complete at the summer camp/Merit Badge event he will attend. If it cannot be done there, my son does it before he goes. He brings the completed project and/or photos of the completed requirement to show the Merit Badge Counselor. If he doesn’t complete it at the camp/event, he locates a local counselor to complete it with. He hasn’t had anyone not accept the blue card & make him start over.

          Our Summer Camp is the only one in the country (that I can find) that last 10 days/9 nights so there are opportunities to complete 3-6 Merit Badges at a summer camp depending on whether the Scout takes 3-day or 6-day Merit Badges.

          3 quick examples on being prepared. My son signed up for the Bird Study MB for his 2nd year of camp. The major stumbling block for this MB is usually to locate 20 birds at the camp when there are 500 boys tromping thru the woods. We took 3 or 4 trips to local parks, sanctuaries, etc. & he took pictures of over 20 birds before he went to camp. My son downloaded the pictures to the computer & then put them into a PowerPoint presentation. He listed the name of the bird, location, date/time, etc. as required for the requirement. When he got to camp, the Ecology Lodge counselor accepted the photos. He did the other requirements & it was over.

          I discovered that the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson KS has a special week-long camp for Boy Scouts. It is their normal entry-level camp program modified to complete the MB requirements for 5 MBs: Engineering, Space Exploration, Astronomy, Weather, & Aviation. I made sure that my son didn’t do any of these MBs until we could get him into the camp. There were only about 30 Scouts at the camp with a staff of about 6 or 8, many of them former Scouts, that helped them achieve the MBs as the camp director is an approved MBC.

          Lastly, my son did the Emergency Preparedness MB at a neighboring council’s Merit Badge Event. He put together his bag before he went & took it to the event. My son put together the family survival kit & put it in the basement. He took pictures of everything in the kit along with a list of what was in it. He put a PowerPoint presentation together with the photos. While most of the MBs were either a morning or afternoon class, E Prep was an all-day event. I wasn’t happy that some of the other Scouts got credit for putting together their Family Survival Kit when they probably didn’t, but my son showed his proof to the MBC.

          I believe in the Nike motto: “Just Do It!!!” Instead of doing something unproductive such as watching TV or playing video games, get the Scout out there doing an activity. Lots of time, we plan to go to something such as the Ethnic Enrichment Festival. I ask him what requirement he can complete while there . . . and boom, he has knocked off another one for the American Cultures Merit Badge. Nothing says that the Scout has to have the Blue Card to start. As long as the Scout provides evidence of completion & can talk about the event/activity, most MBCs are more than willing to sign off on the requirement.

        • Congratulations on going “over and above” what many people actually do for the MBs. We actually do very similar things, although we have not put together Powerpoints yet. I won’t go into great detail right now because I do not have a lot of time, but I will share a couple of examples. A neighboring troop offered a MB camp the week of spring break, where my son learned and truly earned 5 MB. He went to 2 weeks of summer camp. Since I homeschool and am a former teacher, my expectations are that he truly knows the material. Many times, my son had done the requirements 3 times over, yet I keep him going and working on the subjects he enjoys. One example is the fishing MB. He spent the third summer participating in a local fishing program (not BSA), where we kept photos proving what he had done. He went to Bass Pro Shops for their fishing MB program, which was the indoor instruction only. He presented what he had done and the counselor accepted it and signed his MB as completed. However, just because it is finished, doesn’t mean he is done learning. He will be re-taking fishing MB at winter camp to learn the ice fishing aspects. Likewise, he has done all of the requirements for aviation MB, by participating in the Young Eagles program (also not BSA), yet I plan to have him go to the MB class at the Air Zoo to get more information and reinforce what he has already learned. You see, the badge itself is not the goal, but to truly gain the knowledge IS the goal. We have started working on many MB that he will not “earn” until the material is truly “learned.” That is how we do things. I realize we have a lot of time to dedicate to his education, since we homeschool. It is important to us. There will be naysayers along the way, who may not understand that he is actually learning the material. If they question my son, it should be an interesting and intelligent conversation, because he delves into them more than one might expect.

      • Oh goodness. He didn’t “earn” them on Monday. I misspoke. I meant to say that he was awarded them at the Court of Honor on Monday. He earned them between the June 9th COH and this one.

  9. While my son was on the Eagle trail, I made it a point to NOT sign up for any Eagle-required badges; only electives. That way, there was no impropriety of appearance of him short cutting the process (and any MB that he worked on, others in our troop or district worked on, too.

    Now that he’s 16 years old with several Eagle palms on his badge and past the anybody second guessing whether he truly earned it by his old man signing up for them, I’m more inclined to sign up as a counselor for more badges.

  10. Slightly related, but can we get the Blue Cards modified to (i) note that YPT is required for the counselor, (ii) add a blank for the counselor’s email address in addition to phone number, and (iii) add a blank for the counselor’s BSA ID #.

    • * I like the e-mail idea.

      * As our district’s MBC coordinator, I track YPT dates for our counselors and notify them when they need to renew their training. I don’t know what other districts do.

      * Many MBCs don’t have anything to do with the BSA other than serve as a MBC. As a result, they’re pretty clueless when it comes to things like their ID#.

      * You don’t need the ID# to look up their YPT status (if that’s what you’re after). You can use the advanced search feature to search by name, city, and/or e-mail address: https://scoutnet.scouting.org/trainingvalidation/

  11. As a long time merit badge counselor and part of our councils advancement committee, we see all sort of ‘request’ for such items like mentioned. The merit badge process, besides be a path way to Eagle is more a growth of character. As a boy and I press out units to do this, a boy should ‘call’ and talk to a counselor. In the pass, I used to give them the counselor’s email. Then I thought that this is NOT talking to the counselor. Now I give them the phone number. And by using different counselors, other than in unit and parents, helps the boy grow. I have talked to too many employers that have told me that the old reasoning that when a applicant puts down that he is an Eagle Scout, has lost its’ ‘clout’. They have found that a few or some did not ‘truly’ earn the badge. That when they were asked about their experience about a certain merit badge, they had no recollection about the badge. Parents should only be used in the ‘Lone Scout’ or group setting. Sorry Parents, but it is for the good of your Scout. My own son, had ADDD and he went out with other scouts to see counselors. In fact, he only earned one from me and that was at a midway. The Boys should get out of their ‘comfort zone’.

    • Excellent! And thank you! I hadn’t thought about the different impact a phone call can have v. an e-mail on the Scout, but sure do see it your way, now. I think I’ll include a note about that on my next unit leader mailing.

  12. A Scout is Trustworthy and, by extension, so should be an MBC. I agree with expanding the circle of adults that Scouts interact with, but I don’t think a Leader’s or MBC’s son should have to jump through additional hoops.

    When there is an option in the Troop or neighborhood, great — use it. Trying to schedule with someone on the other side of the Council (or District) when a parent is an approved MBC shouldn’t be necessary.

  13. In my experience, the merit badge program brings out two very striking personalities. The MB Policeman, and the MB Gifter. I’m sure you recognize them. The police pour over the blue card, research the counselor, quiz the Scout on every requirement to see if they remember each one in detail 3 years later as if a boy is supposed to retain every bit of info he learned in a MB. The Gifter is especially common at MB Roundups and camp. He isn’t concerned if a boy actually fulfills the requirement, but that he sat through a class. After all, recognition is more important than actually doing things (ignoring the fact that it is not recognition if the person didn’t actually do it).
    The key is remembering that the primary goal of the advancement is not to help the Scout develop skills, but to use the skills to develop the Scout.

    • I’ve seen both of these types & hopefully I fall somewhere in the middle on the continuum. I did the Coin Collecting MB at my 1st District Merit Badge Forum, which consisted of two 90-minute periods 4 weeks apart on a Saturday morning. We went over all the requirements at the 1st meeting & had some good discussion. I showed the Scouts how to use a Coin Catalog, etc. I then gave them “homework” to do that including putting together their various coin collections they needed, going on line to a coin related website, & finding an article about coin collecting among some others. At the end of the 1st period, one of the Scouts raised their hand & wanted to know if I was going to sign their Blue Cards today since “they went over the requirements.” They were a little surprised when I wouldn’t, but explained “discuss” does not mean that one Scout talks while the other 14 listen . . . and everyone gets credit.

      When we met for the second period, I had each Scout come to my desk to demonstrate their ability to use a coin catalog, show me their articles & coin collections. Some of the Scouts didn’t even come back for the second period, others forgot their coins, & still others had forgotten to go on the Internet. I had a couple of coin magazines that the Scouts not talking with me could go through to get their article if they had forgotten that, but I even had a couple not get that requirement signed off even though I told them to do it while waiting to see me. Only about 1/2 got their Blue Cards signed off completely. I gave them all my business card to contact me to finish the MB, but have not heard from any since.

      When I do the American Heritage Merit Badge, I have the same type of policies. I usually have 3-8 Assistants who are MBCs for that MB. At the end of the day, we sit down with each Scout to go over the requirements including the prerequisites that include one in writing that cannot be done any other way. Most usually complete the MB, but one or two are always rewriting their paragraph as they forgot to do it before they cam.

      I go by the theory, do the requirements as written . . . “nothing more & nothing less.” I try not to be a policeman about it, but I’m not giving the Merit Badge away. The Scout has to earn it.

        • I have them sign off on the Blue Cards so I don’t have to be the only one signing off on 24 of them. After over 6 hours at the museum, most are ready to leave . . . along with the adults. Having them all qualified makes the final discussions go a little faster.

  14. By way of background, I have little interaction with scouts other than being a Cycling MBC and the grandfather of a scout.

    The Cycling MB, and I suspect several others, require a scout to demonstrate, remember, and be able to execute specific skills at least up to the time of completing the final MB requirement. There are some prior requirements a councilor really has to verify to ensure the scout’s safety.

    For reference, Cycling MB requirements are here:
    http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Cycling

    I cannot imagine encouraging a scout to go cycling on roads (Requirements 7 a. 2 and 7 a. 3) without personally verifying that the scout knew and could follow the rules of the road (Requirement 6) , could safely signal and execute turns, and could execute the other safety related requirements listed in Requirement 7 a. 1.

    Such verification is probably best done informally, by joining and observing the scout and his buddy the very first ride they do under my council. If they don’t do it right , i.e. don’t ride safely, a review is essential.

    LarryM

  15. There is also the “Guide for Merit Badge Counseling” (aka National Pamphlet, No. 34532). It is meant to support the advancement guide. Very good summarized advice in there. Points made in that pamphlet have been made earlier on the board. But to repeat: A parent should avoid being the counselor; but situations such as group settings or lone scout may need to be considered. A Scouter should limit himself to being a counselor for no mare than 5 merit badges, but his own skill set and other factors such as needs of the district and council may override this.

    • Id have to agree with the above poster that a scout whose father or parent is a SM, or MBC, or both, should not have to jump through extra hoops. As a SM and a MBC with a son in the Troop, I always try to get another MBC to do badges he wants. But Im not going to hold up his advancement just because of “what things look like” to other parents. Ive read a lot of people in here saying they don’t want to “look” like they did something shady for their child …..If your on the up and up, and you follow the rules, I could care less if you fulfill your child’s MBC needs. If however, I begin to see your child earning badges at much faster and unreasonable rates than others, and not appearing to know any of the material, Im going to start scrutinizing before signing. As for my child, if I act as his MBC, I always ask another adult leader to talk with him about the badge and ask them to initial the card at the bottom with “reviewed by” so and so, written beside the initials. My wife and I have given many years and lots of our money to Scouting. I say that not because I need a pat on the back for it or a Atta boy’, but I sure don’t expect to be penalized for giving to the organization. Our son started as a Tiger Cub and is now a Life Scout. If things go as he’s planned, hell be a 15 Year old Eagle. Hes spent over half his life in scouting. I refuse to run around trying to appease everyone else’s sense of skepticism, petty jealousies, and lack of frustration that their lil Johnny isn’t being fast tracked to Eagle after a year in Scouting. They just don’t see how a Scout who started as tiger Cub and has many more years of experience can be senior to their lil darling, who needs Eagle for his college application. They just cant figure out why maybe a Scout whose father is SM or ASM or Committee Chair is further along than theirs. It MUST BE unfair right? Couldn’t possibly be that maybe theres a reason that the SM’s son is more advanced, like because hes been their longer, and attends more meetings, camps, and activities by virtue of dad having to be there. I’ve found the parents that scream “unfair” and “its because his dad is SM” the loudest, are the least involved. But lets be clear, BSA rules do NOT prohibit parents from being MBC’s for their children. In fact they don’t “discourage it”. They do recommend a scout use people other than a parent at least some of the time, not because of “cheating,” but to enhance the scout’s experience. If a MBC other than a parent is available and its not a inconvenience to the parent, I always encourage parents who are adult leaders to use them instead. But there is NO reason whatsoever that a parent who already gives of their time and effort to make Scouting possible , should be penalized for that by having to track down and work with distant or hard to pin down MBC’s just to satisfy this idea of “looking inappropriate”. If the integrity of the MBC is that in question, parent or not, they need to be dismissed as MBC’s. My advice is to use other counselors when convenient, have another leader MBC or not, review the badge info with the Scout and initial the card. But don’t be scared off by “what things look like”. There are ALWAYS parents, leaders, BOR and others who are going to accuse you of rubber stamping and signing off for your child in a less than honest manner. You cant change the way people will think. As long as YOU know the truth and are abiding by the rules, don’t let nay sayers penalize you for volunteering your time and efforts to Scouting.

    • The (self or local Council) limitation to five (or other number) of MB for a Counselor sounds good at first glance but on further though could be a little more involved. Of course, the earning of most of the MB for Eagle subject to question, especially if it is not a Lone Scout living on a lighthouse or way out in the wilderness. And their are advantages for the Scout contacting and working with a variety of MB Counselors, and beyond the Troop.

      But a distinction should be made between the white/silver edge required MB. and the remaining green edged MBs. A good case can be made for limiting the number of required MBs from a single source, and doing this be limiting the number administered by a single counselor. But not for the remaining MBs. Five is a small number.
      A person does not have to be a polymath be have interests, experience and skills covering a good range of MBs.
      Many Districts have difficulty keeping a full role of MB Counselors for ALL OF THE MB, especially more ‘odd ball’ and less popular MBs, including Oceanography in Kansas. And, one Counselor doing doing such low volume MB could cover 10 or 20 such MBs, and see less Scouts in a year than another Counselor just covering a single MB such as: Hiking, Cooking, Camping, or First Aid (and only one such topic) in the same year.
      In fact, I have been listed for One MB that has never received a phone call, even after some self promotion both at the Scout and Scouter level — did get a few stragglers at a MB fair event but that is anther tale.

      So I would use caution in adopting any fixed limitation of MBs listed for one Counselor and trying to apply such limitation for low volume MBs.

      • The MB limit per counselor is fixed by each Council. In Bay-Lakes, our limit is 7. However, there is nothing stopping a Merit Badge Counselor from dropping one or more Merit Badges and applying for new Merit Badges in their stead – assuming, of course, that he or she is qualified to teach them.

        As a result, it is entirely possible over the course of time for a Scout to have earned 10 or 20 Merit Badges from the same Counselor.

        Generally speaking, I wouldn’t suggest gaming the system in this fashion as it doesn’t help the Scout improve his leadership skills.

  16. If there has been an answer to the urban legend of having one year to complete a merit badge, I apologize. The opinion may have had its birth from the language on the counsellor’s portion of the blue card. It was recommended that the counsellor keep his portion of the card for a year. I haven’t checked lately, but that was the printing on the cards from when I was an active counsellor.

  17. Couldn’t agree more that we must be on the “lookout” for parents who will pass their own kids along too easily… but the same needs to apply to these “merit badge weekend” events that some Councils hold. I’ve been to 2 events where boys were offered a ton of badges in a weekend and saw badges being given away. In fact, I strongly DISCOURAGE anyone and any unit from participating in such events.

    People need to be MINDFUL of what the MB Program is about in this CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT program we call “Scouting”.

    “Learning a skill” is just one part of what MBs are about. What makes an “Eagle” an “Eagle”??? Part of that HAS to be the youth taking ownership of their own advancement, making the EXTRA effort to select a badge, finding a councilor, and then engaging INDEPENDENTLY (NOT as a troop or large group). Merit Badges are just as much about developing a boy’s MATURATION and personal growth as they are about him “learning a new skill”.

    Nothing ticks me off more in Scouting than seeing people who don’t understand “the Program”… because the boys/Eagles they ‘churn out’ actually go through life not understanding how much they actually missed.

  18. Bryan and group. I recently issued six blue cards to (one) scout, I asked him who the merit badge counselor was for each MB and he could not answer? His mother told me it is generated from the county park authority.
    The park authority requires 90% of the MB be completed through pre-requisites. As an example Citizenship in the Community: they require pre-requisites (3,4,5,7,8).

    Is it possible to allow the Park authority to require so many pre-requisites before the scout meets the counselor?
    Once the scout is registered online (by an adult) the scout is not physically, and virtually aware of his counselor nor can he ask questions or seek guidance prior to attending the MB class where he is required to bring in his pre-requisite work.

    I feel the park authority is circumventing the MB system and forcing scouts or their parents to teach pre-requisites without counselors certified to teach that subject.

    What are your thoughts?

  19. Hi, can a merit badge Councelor be listed in the contact information for more than one council? We are on the border of New York and New Jersey

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