Guide to Advancement updated

2015-Guide-to-Advancement_200The BSA’s Advancement Team has completed its biennial review and revision of the Guide to Advancement. The complete document can be downloaded here. As usual, there are several significant changes and clarifications, and most of the changes pertain to the Boy Scout program. Here’s a summary:

  • There’s a clarification that merit badge worksheets and other written work are not to be substituted for the active requirements such as “show”, “demonstrate” and “tell”. Worksheets may be fine for a Scout to organize his material, but when meeting with the counselor, the requirements must be met as stated. (Section 4.2.0.1)
  • A Scoutmaster conference is meant to be held face-to-face, not via an online meeting system such as Skype or FaceTime. These teleconference systems weaken the method of Adult Association and could make youth protection and privacy standards harder to enforce. (Section 4.2.3.5)
  • Seemingly at conflict with this (but for good reasons), there’s new guidance for holding boards of review by videoconferencing mechanisms, such as when a Scout is away at college or in the military and a timely board of review must be held. (Section 8.0.1.6)
  • Lists of merit badge counselors are not intended to be provided directly to Scouts, and the Advancement Team is emphasizing that this includes online access to lists. A Scout should be referred to one or more counselors by his Scoutmaster during the discussion that accompanies the issuance of the blue card. (Section 7.0.2.3)
  • Merit badge instruction should not be provided in large sessions but rather one-on-one with the Scout, and preferably with a Scout buddy, or in certain circumstances in small groups where the instructor can personally interact with each Scout. “Large group and Web-based instruction, while perhaps efficient, do not measure up in terms of the desired outcomes with regard to learning and positive association with adults.” (Section 7.0.3.0)
  • There’s a clarification on merit badges which contain prerequisites, such as earning another badge as one of the requirements. It’s made clear that the prerequisite does not need to be satisfied before work on the merit badge begins. The example given is the case of the Emergency Preparedness merit badge, which requires the First Aid merit badge to also be completed. It need not be earned prior to starting work on Emergency Preparedness. (Section 7.0.4.11)
  • Not that it happens often, but it’s made clear that other youth observers besides the candidate are not allowed at boards of review. The unit leader can be there to introduce the candidate and explain anything the board asks, but the board has the right to exclude any and all other observers including the unit leader. (Section 8.0.1.0) But 8.0.1.0 states that parents of the Scout must be allowed to observe if they absolutely insist, and Section 10.2.2.0 provides for assistance for special-needs Scouts.
  • The official Eagle Scout rank application is the only form permitted to be used. This is to prevent possible use of obsolete online forms or local council versions of the national form. (Section 9.0.1.3)
  • A section is added on “crowdfunding” for Eagle Scout service projects. This involves use of such services as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. The language makes clear that traditional fundraising methods are preferred (if fundraising is even necessary) and includes a caution that the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding service may be at odds with BSA policies. (Section 9.0.2.10)
  • There’s – wait for it – another new form but this one serves a noble purpose, and that is to expedite the process of registering a member beyond the age of youth eligibility. I’ve personally participated in a few such requests for special-needs Scouts, and the new form will make clarity out of what can be a Byzantine process. (Section 10.1.0.2)

In addition, there’s a near-complete revision of the Cub Scout requirements to cover the changes that take effect this year (Section 4.1), and Venturing and Sea Scouting changes.

Every Scouter should be at least familiar with the Guide to Advancement and how to use it to answer our questions on the wide-ranging method in our programs. Only the very fastidious will read every word, but we should all be able to find our way around in it.


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2 Replies to “Guide to Advancement updated”

  1. Are these two bullet points at odds we each other?

    A Scoutmaster conference must be held face-to-face, not via an online meeting system such as Skype or FaceTime. These teleconference systems weaken the method of Adult Association and could make youth protection and privacy standards harder to enforce. (Section 4.2.3.5)

    And

    Even though Scoutmaster conferences are intended to be held in person, there’s new guidance for holding boards of review by videoconferencing mechanisms, such as when a Scout is away at college and a timely board of review must be held. (Section 8.0.1.6)

    And what about merit badge sessions at summer Camp?

    Merit badge instruction is not to be provided in large sessions but rather one-on-one with the Scout, and preferably with a Scout buddy, or in certain circumstances in small groups where the instructor can personally interact with each Scout. (Section 7.0.3.0)

    To say the least your bullet points are very confusing.

    Would Swimming and lifesaving be another example a prerequisite merit badge not being required?

    1. Michael,

      The two about Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review by remote means did make me wonder, but they point out that the Scoutmaster conference needs to be a personal one-on-one chat with the Scoutmaster and the Scout, and doing it by remote means can compromise that confidentiality (although they should always be held in full view of others, but at a distance). The provision for boards of review by teleconference is intended to facilitate a BOR for an Eagle Scout candidate who is away at college or in the military so he won’t miss the time period limitations. It is stated that boards of review should be held in person if at all possible. Keep in mind that while the board of review is held after all requirements are complete, the Scoutmaster conference can be held at any time – it needn’t immediately precede a board of review, so it should be more possible to schedule one even if the last merit badge isn’t wrapped up yet.

      Merit badge classes at summer camp and merit badge fairs have long been a bone of contention with me. Having taught merit badges in smallish groups (10 or so Scouts) I can vouch that it’s difficult to ensure that each Scout met each requirement as written. Expand that to a class of 30 or more Scouts as you might see at a summer camp and it’s nearly impossible for one instructor to do it right. As a counselor, I much prefer to counsel Scouts individually or in pairs, especially Family Life, which has requirements to discuss topics of a particularly personal nature that should not be shared with a group.

      Lifesaving doesn’t require earning the Swimming merit badge, but it does require completing the swimming requirements for second and first class.
      [Note: the original article was edited slightly after the comment from Michael was received and replied to.]

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