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Scoutmaster as Merit Badge Counselor? To have another ASM sign off completed card?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Old_OX_Eagle83 View Post
    There right there on the Blue Card ... it requires signatures of separate people for a reason.
    Our council uses a MB Card that requires only one SM signature at the begining of the scouts MB process. How does a MBC signature imply unethical behavior? It can't, which is why National doesn't have a problem with a SM MBC.

    One of the challenges of being a good SM is what they don't know because when someone states mater-of-factly that the SM can't be a MBC, the SM might believe it, thus tying their hands of an opportunity for helping a scout’s growth.

    I believe the biggest barrier for scouts’ growth in all units are adults creating rules, regulations, restrictions and protocols based from their fears. I used to teach a class on this very subject helping adult leaders get their program past the adult fears. Look at the post in this discussion and look at the self-created MBC “guidelines”. Most if not all are based simply from the fear of an adult making an unethical decision. National doesn’t support these guidelines, but you would think they were written in stone by the tone of scouters giving them.

    The OPs basic question was “Do you know if there are any limitations or restrictions for the merit badge process when a SM is also a MBC?”. He followed with reasons for asking the question, but the simple answer is “The limitations for a SM are the same as all other MBCs”. Now some adults' fears may lead to adding more requirements and that is fine because all of us do it to some degree. But when we add requirements, we risk creating a barrier to a scouts growth because we lose the meaning of the process or method. From Nationals perspective, there are no more requirements on a SM being a MBC than any other registered scouter. And as far as I can tell, the MBC is the highest authority of the scout's performance for recognition of MB requirements even if the SM has a place to sign after all is done. Seems silly to me personally because I can't imagine how that signature could trump the MBC, but it's that fear thing again.

    Barry

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Old_OX_Eagle83 View Post
      Barry, I agree, but there are checks and balances for a reason. Ethics dictate that he also act to preserve the checks and balances.

      I'm sorry but I don't see where the ethical risk is in this situation. The SM signs off on all sorts of other requirements for scouts, why would a MB be any different?

      That's not to say I don't agree that, under ideal circumstances, it is preferable to recommend a MBC who is not someone with whom the scout regularly deals in order to maximize the adult association method. I just don't see it as giving any appearance of impropriety (and apparently the GTA does not either).

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      • #18
        "One of the challenges of being a good SM is what they don't know because when someone states mater-of-factly that the SM can't be a MBC, the SM might believe it, thus tying their hands of an opportunity for helping a scout’s growth."

        Read carefully, I never said a SM can't be a MBC. The SM isn't an ideal choice for MBC, he has enough to do, and the scouts need association with multiple adults.


        Why is it unethical for the SM to approve himself as MBC, present the material, and sign off on it? I think the answer is in the question. A MBC should be a subject matter expert, and the SM is the one that verifies the MBC is qualified, understands BSA YP, and will meet the BSA MB requirements. In a perfect world every MBC will be registered as such, but back to reality ...

        What keeps a SM from teaching something he's not qualified to teach, if there are no checks and balances?


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        • #19
          Originally posted by Old_OX_Eagle83 View Post
          Why is it unethical for the SM to approve himself as MBC, present the material, and sign off on it? I think the answer is in the question. A MBC should be a subject matter expert, and the SM is the one that verifies the MBC is qualified, understands BSA YP, and will meet the BSA MB requirements. In a perfect world every MBC will be registered as such, but back to reality ...

          It's actually the district or council's responsibility to verify those things. I think we're on the same page that it is not the best idea, but I also don't think it's a reason to question a scoutmaster's integrity.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by The Blancmange View Post

            It's actually the district or council's responsibility to verify those things. I think we're on the same page that it is not the best idea, but I also don't think it's a reason to question a scoutmaster's integrity.
            You're correct on both counts.

            The District/Council "should" be the approving body for all MBC, and they "should" all be registered.

            My intent is to share a best practice that will prevent even the appearance of impropriety.


            I'm a former SM, and learned that a bit of CYA is a very good thing, keeps you out of the crosshairs.

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            • #21
              Per the original post ... There is no rule issue or ethical dilemma in the original question. BSA GTA section 7 ( http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf ) doesn't strictly cover the specific question because it can't document every "what if" without becoming too thick and too overwhelming a document. Just apply the basic rules and the answer is clear.


              Old_OX_Eagle83 ... "Why is it unethical for the SM to approve himself as MBC" ... Scoutmasters do NOT "approve" anything related to merit badges. Scoutmasters confirm the scout is eligible to work on a badge, provide a list of counselors that the council / district have approved as MBC and confirm they had a discussion with the scout. The scout can use one from that list or use another MBC. The merit badge process is mostly in the scout's control and only the MBC approves anything. See BSA Guide To Advancement, Section 7.0.0.3 "The Scout, the Blue Card and the Unit Leader", page 45.


              Old_OX_Eagle83 ... "Why is it unethical for the SM to approve himself as MBC" ... He doesn't. The council / district approve MBCs.

              Old_OX_Eagle83 ... "it requires signatures of separate people for a reason." ... It does not require separate people. In no way and no where is that required. Two or three different "roles" need to sign. But those roles could be the same person.

              --- "before" - scoutmaster confirms scout is eligible to work on the badge plus a discussion plus a MBC list
              --- "during" - MBC approves. It's the only and final approval.
              --- "after" - scoutmaster (or unit leader) signs to confirm the troop received the badge card and that they had another brief discussion on how it went. That's it.

              ================================================== =

              I fully agree with Eagledad. Too many scout leaders are boxed in by make believe rules that are really only urban legends. Extra rules are created by well meaning leaders, but in the end "good ideas" should not be treated as "rules". We should encourage every scoutleader to read or get to know the BSA GTA and discuss "rules" based on interpretting that document. ... http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf

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              • #22
                'Boxed in'. Interesting point. I often wonder why on one hand we often shout our desire for freedom to make decisions and choices and then on the other hand, go straight to the 'rule book' if someone exercises that freedom. Interesting.

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                • #23
                  I'm advocating ethical decision making, and a system that removed even the possibility of the appearance of impropriety, as a "best practice".

                  What I'm hearing is a lot of "cowboy talk" - talk of action without though of possible consequence. We must always think beyond "what is required", and explore the best way to handle things.

                  Like many here, I'm an experienced scouter, and am sharing my point of view; one shaped from having been there, and done that,.

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                  • #24
                    Old_OX_Eagle83 ... Fair enough.

                    I'm coming from a troop where our scoutmaster for years was the financial controller for a mid-sized company. He was excellent at teaching personal management and well qualified for it. Another local troop has a doctor as scoutmaster. He's very well qualified for teaching medicine or fitness or ....

                    I think the main concern people have is the same concern that happens anytime anyone with an existing relationship with the scout becomes the MBC for that scout. Scoutmaster. Parent. Teacher. Coach. Etc etc etc. BSA has repeatedly said it's okay for a parent or unit leader to be a MBC for their own scout.

                    Mistakes will happen. Some people will game the system. It happens. I'm not too worried about it. Eagle requires 21 merit badges. Many scouts usually end up with many more. It's just not that big a deal.

                    ---------------------------------------------

                    IMHO, the real way to address these concerns is when registering MBCs. Districts should better screen MBCs. BSA should suggest a guideline that districts only approve individuals for three or fewer merit badges ... unless extenuating circumstances exist. Maybe five badges if the individual can show strong knowledge in all five topics.

                    There is a local district where it is not uncommon for merit badge counselors to be approved for 10+ merit badges. In those cases, scouts could earn Eagle by only working with two merit badge counselors, theoretically. I doubt if it ever happens, but I would be sad if it did because the scout would have lost out on a great opportunity.
                    Last edited by fred johnson; 07-03-2014, 01:13 PM.

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                    • #25
                      Fred,

                      You've got a good handle on the issue, and have brought out another problem with the system.

                      Although I don't think you need to be a NASA engineer to teach Space X, you certainly need a solid understanding of the topic. Unless we have another Leonardo Davinci out there, no one is knowledgeable enough to be a MBC for more than a hand full of merit badges.

                      You're also correct about the need in interact with many different adults during the advancement process, and we all know that is an intentional element of advancement.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        My Problem is Why Would A MBC only Teach a Merit Badge to their own Scouts? Seem to me Something is Wrong when a Unit has MBC for every Eagle Required Merit Badge and They only Teach it to their Scouts...Seems fishy when they also tend to be the Eagle factories in the Council

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                        • #27
                          My Problem is Why Would A MBC only Teach a Merit Badge to their own Scouts? Seem to me Something is Wrong when a Unit has MBC for every Eagle Required Merit Badge and They only Teach it to their Scouts...Seems fishy when they also tend to be the Eagle factories in the Council

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by jpstodwftexas View Post
                            My Problem is Why Would A MBC only Teach a Merit Badge to their own Scouts? Seem to me Something is Wrong when a Unit has MBC for every Eagle Required Merit Badge and They only Teach it to their Scouts...Seems fishy when they also tend to be the Eagle factories in the Council
                            I must confess our troop does have a MBC for each Eagle and many other merit badges. But ... it's rare for our adults to teach MBs. It's more so that scouts have a resource to close out partial badges after summer camp or after MB events.

                            To be honest, even our leaders that appear on district MB lists rarely get called by other units or even used by our own scouts. Most scouts earn MBs now at summer camp or at MB events.

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                            • #29
                              Yeppppp 1 Day Merit Badges....Even Eagle Ones

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                              • #30
                                Scoutfam4 -- your ethical concerns may have been an issue at one point but no more. Current advancement policies and the new language on the blue cards themselves make the SMs signature on a blue card absolutely meaningless. The initial signature only indicates that the SM has "discussed" the MB with the Scout and recommended one counselor:

                                SM -- Son, I strongly discourage you from taking this merit badge. You are wholly ill-prepared for it and will be doing yourself and the counselor a great disservice. I know the only reason you are interested is because your parents have promised you a new PlayStation when you complete it. The counselor I've recommended has a Nobel Prize in this subject, but I assume you will be using your father as counselor like the last 14 MBs you earned, correct?

                                Scout -- Yes, sir.

                                SM -- Okay, we've discussed. Here's your blue card.

                                And the follow-up signature only serves as acknowledgement the completed card was received.

                                So if the unit has no control over the MB process, what's the conflict with the SM?

                                JP -- in a perfect world, I would agree with you about district vs. unit MBCs. But you can probably guess I think the world of BSA advancement is far, far, FAR from perfect. Recruiting, training and supervising our own unit MBCs is the only way we can ensure any sort of quality control. That said, by default we register all our unit MBC as open to counseling Scouts from other units although I can't cite a single instance with a Scout from another unit has used one of our counselors.. And I know the other units well enough that I can call a counselor from another unit and arrange for him/her to work with a Scout on an obscure badge. This is just how it works these days.

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