Guide to Advancement 2021

Guide to AdvancementThe Boy Scouts of America’s National Advancement Team has completed its biennial review and updates to the Guide to Advancement, BSA’s canonical reference to all things related to advancement.

First published in its current form in 2011 and updated every two years since, the Guide has chapters covering all aspects of advancement across all the BSA’s programs. In the past, updates have been quietly published with little fanfare, but in recent years – and especially with changes necessitated in the last year or so – there’s been more publicity surrounding its release. So you’ve probably heard or read about some of the changes.

Just in case you haven’t, though, here’s a quick rundown:

What’s in a month?

There’ve been a lot of disagreements as to what constitutes a “month” for advancement purposes (such as “serve four months in a position of responsibility”). The new Guide clarifies the period of a month as that spanning the same date in the given number of months – not necessarily other measures such as four weeks or thirty days. For example, if a Scout becomes Patrol Leader on March 20th, she has completed four months on July 20th. There are even special cases listed when the date in question is at the end of a month (like the 31st, where the target month has no 31st).

Blue Cards aren’t set in stone

Some councils have been allowing different documents or processes for recording completion of merit badge requirements other than the official BSA-published Application for Merit Badge, commonly called a “blue card”. This is okay with the Advancement Team, as long as it contains all the same information. Of course, the official BSA Blue Card will always be acceptable.

Changes in merit badge requirements

They’ve clarified that once changes in requirements are posted to the official BSA Merit Badge Requirements page, they become effective and must be used by any Scout starting that badge – regardless of what’s contained in the Merit Badge Pamphlet or anywhere else. There’s normally ample notice that changes are coming, so Scouts and Scouters (particularly merit badge counselors) should keep current on particulars. It’s also clarified that once a Scout begins working with one set of requirements he or she may continue using those requirements, or optionally switch to all of the new ones (you can’t pick and choose).

Online Scoutmaster Conferences

Over the last year-plus, many Scoutmaster Conferences were held by videoconference (Zoom, for instance) due to social distancing requirements. This was okayed on an interim basis, and they may still continue, but in-person conferences are still preferred whenever it’s possible to do them safely.

Eagle Board of Review extensions

It’s now possible to hold a board of review for Eagle Scout up to twenty-four months past the Scout’s eighteenth birthday without authorization from the National Council or from anyone else, for that matter, apparently. “Without special approval” is the caveat, which implies that not even approval from the local council is needed. Just schedule it as you normally would with your council or district advancement committee. (For those of you wondering what “twenty-four months” means, in light of the first item above, I asked Lisa from the National Advancement Team. Twenty-four months expires at midnight of the day before the Scout’s twentieth birthday – so plan accordingly!)

Eagle rank requirement extensions

There are new provisions for requesting an extension of time to complete requirements for Eagle Scout past a Scout’s eighteenth birthday – notably, the “tests” for granting an extension have been revised from five to three. See Section of the new Guide for the full text.

Home-schooled Cub Scouts

In some cases, the BSA is advising the use of a Scout’s age, rather than his or her equivalent grade in school, for the purposes of determining which rank requirements to use.

Venturing and Sea Scouting changes

Mostly changes in terminology, Venturing Awards are now called Ranks, and a Sea Scout’s bridge of review now conforms to other programs in being called a “board of review”. Venturing boards of review now must be unanimous as well.

You can read Bryan Wendell’s summary on his Bryan on Scouting blog on Scouting Magazine’s website. Download and keep the 2021 Guide to Advancement here. (PDF)

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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