The 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 126.96.36.199)
- 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 188.8.131.52)
- 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 184.108.40.206)
- 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 220.127.116.11)
- 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 18.104.22.168)
- 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 22.214.171.124)
- 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 126.96.36.199) But 188.8.131.52 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 184.108.40.206)
- 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 220.127.116.11)
- 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.