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Guide to Advancement - What Needs to Change?

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I know there are some items that need to be reworded/clarified. The Advancement team's Twitter Account has been used to send out some of those until the 2013 update.


Suggestions must/shall/should/could/may :-) be sent to advancement.team@scouting.org

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Would be nice if the National Advancement team used a medium that is accessible by most people. One you don't need to open an account and give authority to collect your info. Not Twitter or Facebook. How about an Advancement FAQ or update page on scouting.org like the training times.

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Well, I'm not sure it's always the G2A that causes the confusion. In the case of the Camping MB 9a discussion, I think it's the way the requirements are written. In that case, it appears someone attempted to clarify the requirement by adding some additional language about long-term camping, but it just confused people because it was written to clarify the process instead of the goals. Based on the explaination from Bryan on Scouting, it looks like the goal is to ensure the scout has been on a variety of camping trips, perhaps in order to give him time to learn from pervious trips and apply that knowledge to future ones - and excellent goal in my opinion.


In most troops, 20 nights camping would do that, but obviously there were some troops were scouts were doing mostly summer camp style stuff and guys were getting their 20 nights without doing much real planning, and perhaps eating 18 of the 20 days worth of meals in a dining hall. So, someone added the long-term camping limits in order to avoid that. But it's confusing because if two kids go to summer camp, then one does a week a Philmont and the other goes car camping for the weekend, the car camping counts but the Philmont trek doesn't. Clearly that's an odd result, and it confuses people because it seems wrong.


A better approach would be to align the requiremnts to the goals themselves. I would rewrite 9a to say something like:


9a) attend a minimum of 8 camping trips as a member of your Patrol or Troop, or with another designated Scouting group approved by your counselor. Camp at least 20 nights during the 8 or more camping trips. Help your group plan and prepare for each trip. Each day perform your camp duties according to the group's Duty Roster. Sleep each night under the stars or in a portable shelter you helped set up.


As far as the G2A, maybe one change would be to simply eliminate the prohibiion on MBCs "adding to the requirements." Why not? If Mr. Smith is a hardcase and won't count car camping for the Camping MB, well, nobody has to take the MB from him. That eliminates the entire Canoeing MB swimtest argument. Counselor says the swim test has to be one he approves of, then it has to be one he approves of, stop arguing and start swimming. Also, perhaps make it explict that an MBC or BOR should not approve advancmeent/MB if in their judgement the scout is not knowledgable about the material expected for the rank or badge, regardless of what requiremetns have previously been signed off.


So, short summary: define the goals not the process, and explicitly require the adult(s) approving advancement to use judgement in determining if the scout has earned the award.

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JMHawkins wrote: "So, short summary: define the goals not the process, and explicitly require the adult(s) approving advancement to use judgement in determining if the scout has earned the award."


I think it would really help to explicitly include the goals with the requirements. I would not eliminate using requirements to "measure" advancement, but we scout leaders need more clarification on how to interpret the requirements. I believe that's a key part of the issue. Leaders using different rational to interpret the requirements to match their personal agenda. For example, some leaders believe ranks and merit badges mean "independently capable" and others use "introduced" and others use some combination. Others say the requirement must be demonstrated once and others mean it should be demonstratable on demand at any time.


Heck when I read the G2A wording, the advancement interpretations seem pretty clear. Yet when others read it, they hear something very different. Different to the point that I really wonder where they are coming from and I want to actively protect my scouts from those leaders.




I'm not sure you achieve that much more with JMHawkin's camping 9A re-write "Help your group plan and prepare for each trip. Each day perform your camp duties according to the group's Duty Roster. Sleep each night under the stars or in a portable shelter you helped set up." The re-write is just a very different requirement now. What was fairly clear though people always debated how to interpret nights now includes evaluating planning, preparation etc. I'm not saying that's a bad requirement. It's just a different debate versus how to interpret 20 nights. Yet again we get caught up in what are the goals of planning. How far to take it? Personal agendas.




G2A is written as it is in an attempt to define a common standard for what the different ranks mean. IMHO, the whole reason is that there's a huge variety of leaders.


Perhaps we need to stop expecting ranks to mean the same thing when they never have. The effort and value has always differed by both time (1960s versus 2000s) and by troop. Just like college educations are much different than they were forty years ago and Harvard is very different than most local city colleges. Join the troop you want to be in and Eagle will end up meaning what you put into it.




People complain that there are more eagle scouts now then in the past and think it's credentialism or lowered standards. But Arthur Eldred earned eagle when BSA was 18 months old. Early 1960s eagles didn't requirement projects. Now I might agree that requirement testing was more systematic. I did hear someone say that scouts were expected to go before a BOR (or similar) to be examined on each requirement as it was completed. No quick meaningless approvals. That could be interesting and very valuable. That would be a huge hit to merit badge fairs, etc.


But people have also changed. (statistics being very loose) Don't we have high school graduation rates of 85% now versus less than 50% before 1960. People going to college (not necessarily including "graduates") has more than doubled. In fact, I thought it trippled. Plus more people now recognize Eagle as something worthwhile. People tend to pursue that which is viewed valuable. The fact that we have more Eagle scouts now just does not necessarily bother me in itself. I could see increasing difficulty in areas and making other parts of scouting more relevant to today's scouts.


But what does bother me is that we disagree on how to apply something like the G2A! IMHO it's not a statement that the G2A or individual requirements are written poorly. It's that we come from such a diverse background that we can't necessarily agree even on the most basic stuff. Perhaps it gets back to the age old philosophy that fences make good neighbors. Different troops makes friendly scouting.




I need to go to bed. I'm still upset that the Celtics lost. KG rocks. He deserved another championship. Except KG didn't complete one championship requirement. Celtics lost.

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Real suggestion ....


Perhaps the G2A is not the issue. Perhaps it's the training. We get lots of written words without examples and consistent training.


PROPOSAL - BSA should create MyScouting.org online e-training topics grouped under "Boy SCout" --> "Advancement" and "Cub Scout" --> "Advancement". As the YP training demonstrated case examples, this training could teach advancement. Have one for MBC and include real world examples of how to interpret the requirements ... "demonstrate" ... "discuss" ... etc. Have one for BORs. Show real questions. Show real examples. Show example problem cases of when you would not pass a BOR. .... Have one for SMC. Show examples how to handle and do a SMC. ... Have one for blue cards and what to do in problem cases. ... And include quizes at the end.


Just a thought.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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"Heck when I read the G2A wording, the advancement interpretations seem pretty clear. Yet when others read it, they hear something very different. Different to the point that I really wonder where they are coming from and I want to actively protect my scouts from those leaders."



I agree. WEll, I haven't been in a position ( yet) to think I need to protect my scouts from other leaders, but I do know some of those leaders that I will need to protect my scouts from ....one day!






Well, if you notice , G2A is not written in a way to indicate an absolute, binding set of requirements.


That's because every trip, outing or unit is different. Every scout is different as is ever oppertunity for meeting requirements.


As son as the G2A lists a dead set , binding way of doing something, there will be a handful of cases where there was a needed exception.


Problem is - so many people try to make every little shortcoming an exception:


" My son would have met the camping requirements except that he forgot his tent and had to sleep in the admin building. It wasn't he fault he only got 18 nights in, he really was planning on doing 20, so that should count!"


"We planned for this trip for months and months. On the second night of our 4 night campout, the weather turned cold and rainy and the scouts were miserable, so we went home, but since we really spent alot of time planning, we should get credit for it, right?"


"The only camping out troop does is summer camp, so we should be able to count every long term camp. It's not our fault that the requirement only counts one long term camping. Everybody just knows that - that's not fair!"


Thing is, even if G2A had 150 specific rules written for each individual MB, somebody would try to come up with an exception in there case.



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I generally like the changes in the new advancement guide, particularly regarding Eagle projects. Our council was one of the ones which required massive project PROPOSALS, so I appreciate the new approach. I think they went a bit too far in some respects, but I'd give them a solid "B" on the Eagle projects.


Overall, however, there needs to be a complete overhaul of advancement philosophy in Scouting. It can't be done by tweaking the current policy.


I'm coming at this with a couple basic assumptions based on nine years as a SM and a lifetime in Scouting --


1) My first assumption is advancement is an important part of the program and a big part of what keeps boys coming back. Whether earning Eagle "looks good on a college application" or if they see the intrinsic value in the program, many of our Scouts are goal-oriented and enjoy the challenge and reward the advancement program gives them.


2) Secondly, is the push by far too many parents that earning Eagle is the only purpose of Scouting (See the other current thread regarding "journey vs. destination.") I've had parents flat-out tell me they want their son to finish Eagle by 14 so the can move on to other "more important stuff like lacrosse." Adults look at the advancement program with their perspective of a college degree, decades of career experience and an adult notion of "productive" and say, "hey, if we organize this right, double up on some stuff, WE can knock these requirements out in a year or two." Yes, YOU can, but you gut the program by doing so.


I don't think the boys have the same "let's-get-this-organized-and-get-it-over-with" attitude many adults do, but every year I get a new Scout or two who are just all over getting requirements signed-off. Of course, learning the skill behind the requirement isn't part of their thinking. All they see is the check list and the award at the end -- more of the "one and done" attitude we've discussed, although I don't think the boys think of it in those terms. Rather, we've trained kids generally, and Cub Scouts in particular, that the goal is not learning anything, not mastering a skill, not sucking the real value out of the program, but that the ultimate goal is to get a set of initials in their handbook.


3) Third, is the trend from national to redefine common English words, to shave every possible procedure, to parse every requirement to the easiest possible intrepretation. Used to be Scout leaders had the dual role of both helping Scouts to advance AND being charged with maintaining standards. Now we're being told we're no longer gatekeepers, but just mentors. If we stand at the gate, our responsibility is to herd boys through, not to judge who has earned admittance. (See Advancement News, March 2012, page 4 "What's up with the Scoutmaster signature of 'Blue Cards'?" http://www.scouting.org/filestore/advancement_news/512-075_March.pdf ) That little nugget just redefined a Scout being "qualified and approved" to start a merit badge to really mean "he just wants to." The process of obtaining your Scoutmaster's signature is there only to provide the Scout and SM the opportunity for another friendly chat.


Boards of Review can't actually approve or reject anything -- as Bnelon wrote in another thread, there are only a very limited set if circumstances where a BOR can turn down a Scout, mostly where the Scout glaringly omitted a requirement. BoRs -- or Scoutmasters, for that matter -- never get to make the subjective call that by the proponderance of the evidence, the Scout just isn't ready to advance. If the boxes are checked, he's done.


And the new definition of "active" -- under which units supposedly can develop their own standards for active -- is bull. It's the same ol' non-definition as before with two more pages of smoke and mirrors. You can set your unit attendance goals any way you like, but then the advancement committee gets to comb through the Scouts life to cobble together just about anything they like to satisfy the requirement. Play football? "Physically strong" is part of Scouting, so football counts as active in Scouting. On the student council? Leadership is part of scouting so that counts too. Held devotionals with the other inmates in your cell block.....


My conclusion from all this is for an active and enthuasistic Scout, we've turned advancement to Eagle into a three year program. Over and over and over I see kids who blow through to Life in a couple years. The best are the Scouts who then become in other aspects of Scouting -- high adventure, OA, leadership, camp staff, etc. -- but that usually requires a great deal of time and resources and doesn't always catch on. Even these Scouts essentially put advancement on the shelf for a couple years.


Unfortunately, a good percentage of those young Life Scouts don't really catch fire with other program elements and just go dormant. Usually, we see them again in their junior year, when college applications show up on the horizon and they decide Eagle is worthwhile and come back to finish it. These guys never really re-engage -- all they want is to check the last few boxes.


The folks at national charged with running the advancement program should be appalled at this. Are you telling me it's okay to take advancement off the table for four of the seven years a Scout is in the program? Honestly, I don't understand their motivation. Is it a membership numbers thing? Do they not want to deal with irate appeals? Or are the just part of the "everybody gets a trophy" culture? If it's the last two, they need to fire them all and hire people with spines. If the issue is membership, a change may result in a hit initially, but long term a more challenging program will BOOST membeship by keeping those Scouts focused on Eagle in the program longer. With all this talk about "protecting the brand" the folks guiding advancement policy now are giving the brand away hand over fist.


Solutions? Advancement needs to be more of a challenge. The advancement program needs to challenge 16 and 17 year olds with something they couldn't do at 12 or 13. If all Eagle requirements are doable at age 12 or 13 (which they must be if any boy can complete any merit badge at any time), what's to hold the interest of a 17 year old?


The first thing that has to happen is a sea change among the national folks. We can make Eagle look like a PhD in quantum physics, but without a change in thinking, the trophy-for-everyone crowd will eventually recast the process so that any 13-year-old can do it.


The easy, top down approach would be to beef up the requirements. I would go so far as to add a rank. Eliminate the "administrative" PORs (librarian, historian, etc.) from the list for Life and Eagle. Require TWO PORs for Life and Eagle. Require more merit badges, but specify that the additional MBs come from a list of outdoor skills MBs (Orienteering, Pioneering, Wilderness Survival, Hiking, Backpacking, Cooking). And absolutely dump First-Year-First-Class. It only feed the one-and-done Cub Scout mentality. If I can complete T-2-1 in a year, why can't I finish S-L-E the next year?


But what I would really like to see happen -- and I know this is anathema to the folks in Irving -- would be to return to the folks in the trenches, the unit leaders who know the Scouts, the ability to set advancement standard for their unit. National should provide a framework for HOW units set standards (documentation, communication, etc.) but allow the units to decide WHAT those standards should be.


Years ago I taught a Scoutmaster position-specific course and one of the participants said in his unit Scoutmaster Conferences were retests of every-single requirement the Scout had completed to date -- including merit badges. He said conferences for Eagle could take 15-to-20 hours to complete! Okay, clearly that's nuts -- who the heck has that kind of time? But if that chartered organization and their leaders believe that's the best way to run that unit -- and if those expectations are made clear to Scouts and parents when they join the unit, why does that matter to the rest of us? Why not let market forces prevail? If you want a very challenging program for your son, there's your troop. If you want him to make Eagle at 13 so he can focus on lacrosse, there's a troop across town which will accommodate you.


Let national standards be the minimum. If a unit is chartered to the local rescue squad and they believe that every Scout First Class and above should maintain Red Cross certification in first aid and CPR/AED, why shouldn't they be allowed to add that requirement. That's the flavor of that unit. If another troop is chartered to a local outdoor retailer and the CO insists the Scouts in their program have impeccable camping skills, that should be the flavor of that troop.


Why does national insist that all troops be vanilla?

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The National Council doesn't insist "vanilla". They do expect that one unit will not gut the program and another unit turn it into a military style boot camp. Troops within "Boys Scouts of America" must have some basic commonalities.

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I think you are on the right track when you ask if it is a membership numbers thing. BSA is faced with declining numbers in an era where there are many, many choices for boys, and many have hyper-parenting parents. How does BSA stay relevant in an environment like that? How do they keep advertisers and sponsors? How do they balance the needs of the majority of their CO's?


Peeling the onion - some possibilities:


- an inactive or partially active member is better than a non-member. the organization can't help a boy that is not a member towards character, citizenship, and fitness. It can be argued that a boy that is a member gets some value in being a member of a character based organization regardless of his participation rate.


- a boy that leaves scouting pays no dues. I doubt that the amount of dues is as much of a concern as the advertising revenue from Boys Life ads. (ad rates in Boys Life would most certainly be based on subscrtiption rates).


- Boys at middle school age are motivated by bling. Give them what they want. High school age boys are either a) looking for a real challenge, which they find in HS sports, music, HS clubs, church youth groups, etc., where they are motivated not by a patch, but by a feeling of being needed and valued, and by being challenged to give more than they think they can; or b) want to hang with their buddies ala the basement in That 70's Show. If you've got them registered for the middle school years, and they get Eagle by 14, it may be very likely that they stay registered, even if they never attend another meeting.


- (cynicism on) Perhaps Eagle scouts make more donations than non-Eagle scouts. If that is true, dontations can be increased by increasing the number of Eagle scouts. (cynisism off).


I am not an employee at National or Council. I do expect that they are like any other business or non-profit - they have the challenge of bringing in enough revenue to be able to support a program of any type, let alone one that develops the character and citizenship that we often expect will be in anyone that has the Eagle rank. From a high-level corporate view, it really doesn't matter if some slide through without achieving the goals. It does matter if the organization becomes irrelevant on all levels.



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Problem with us volunteers is we are sold on a vision.. Which is what they promote to get adult volunteers, then are disillusioned by the fact that BSA National has lost sight of the vision they sold us on..


What we still want to acheive is the vision, because the "real" world BSA would not motivate us at all.

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FScouter -- honest question, not being argumentative:


How does a "standards plus" troop (to coin a phrase) which expects Scouts to master basic skills and maintain them gut the program of another troop? One could argue the advancement-oriented troops attract more boys away from the tougher units. But shouldn't boys and their families choose the flavor of the program they want?


We do that now with troops which are more or less youth led, or that have more challenging outdoor programs. Why should advancement be different?

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If the boys want it tougher as some here have said, why would they run away from a tougher troop to one less tough? Either they want it or they don't. Or is it a matter of age?


Isn't the thread getting away from the Guide to Advancement though. I am still interested in people's views on that manual.

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