Jump to content

SM Approval (and not) for Rank Advancement

Recommended Posts


Rubber stamp? Not at all. Rules and regs Guy? Probably guilty, but not just in scouting. I don't exceed the speed limit, I don't get in the express lane with more than the posted number of groceries, I don't park in the handicapped space even in pouring down rain. I was raised in scouting and taught that rules matter.


You left out "Methods" guy. I follow the rules regs and methods of the BSA because I signed an agreement when I joined to do so and I take my word seriously.


Because I use the scouting methods I have time to know and understand each scout individually, I know each boy's strengths weaknesses, hobbies, parents, goals etc. Rarely do the scouts I serve leave before they turn 18. Everyone earns First Class, I can only think of a couple who didn't go higher. I've always had the largest or next to the largest unit membership in the District. We have never had the same program activities two years in a row.


It's less about knowing the rules and regs and more about understanding their role in achieving the scouting Aims. It's like a big jig saw puzzle, everything fits together and every piece is needed to complete the picture.


I'm always amused when a question is posted and when I respond with "here is what the program says and here's where it says it." I'm met with "Oh you are a rules and regs guy!, that's not how we do it!" the fact that that's not how you do it is what caused the problem. A few posters have found the information I share from scouting useful. It's not "my way of scouting" it's the "scouting program" I just share what that program is.


If you don't like the message don't kill the messenger.


Bob White

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 47
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

My two cents worth as a parent and committee member, been part of a few BOR's lately.


The SM and ASMs have some responsibility of encouraging the boys to do more than just the minimum. They have a responsibility to talk to the boys about showing Scout Spirit at all times. A boy knows if he has been being called on a lot by the SM or ASM, that he is not showing Scout Spirit. He may not admit it. Like my son can act surprised at his report card conduct grade, but I know he isn't surprised. He knows the teacher gets on to him about turning in work every week, almost every day. Same thing in Scouting. The boys know who is acting up a lot.


As a committee member sitting on BORs I don't know these boys. There are 40 boys in the troop, I'm new. The other members on the Board have been around and know the boys better. Either way I trust the SM and ASMs to not sign off of Scout Spirit if there has been a serious problem. If the scout insists on the BOR anyway, I'd want to know why the SM and ASMs don't agree. I also trust the SM and ASMs to talk to each other if they feel a boy has a serious attitude problem, just to make sure it's not a personal conflict.


Seems that the BOR is one important step in many for advancement. It gives the boy a chance to interact with other adults, to talk about how he feels about scouting, get some input from the adults, etc. If no one has signed off on his Scout Spirit, I would be asking why. Also, assisting him in ways to improve in that area.


Just my two cents worth.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The question put forward was in essence "Is it right to teach a boy to go behind the Scoutmasters back to get something signed off when the Scoutmaster says he won't sign" Not whether it was "legal". Right and wrong don't change with administrations like rules and regs do. Because in some parts of the world mutilating female genitals is socially acceptable doesn't make it right just acceptable. WoodBadgeEagle spoke about a group of boys who were not living the oath and law, whose parents were not allowing their boys to "grow in moral strenght and character". Who's "Ideals" are a best questionable. Who's "leadership development is non existant. You seize on the fact that he should have passed them on to the BOR. What about helping the boys Bob? Any suggestions on how to help these kids learn to be better "Citizens", take responsibility for themselves instead of having Mom and Dad (later it will be a lawyer) get what they want without actually working for it? What does all your experience, not some rule book, say?


Mike Long,

I never said Bob suggested rubber stamping anything I accused him of being one. As for the Policy and Proceedure manual check your date. If it's not 1999 or better it's old. According to the Chicago Scout shop requests for copies are on hold. Rumor has it that a revision is on the horizon.

Link to post
Share on other sites



Where did I say the board should pass him?


What I said is that the board should have taken place. Let 3 committee members let him know that his behavior is unacceptable, once they determine it is, and set the conditions for him to complete the Scout Spirit requirement. Refusing advancement is not in the job description of the SM. It is the responsibility of the BOR.


The only real change you can expect in the new Advancement Policy manual is the inclusion of Venture scouting. So feel free to read the current manual.



Link to post
Share on other sites


Read my post again. I never said that you said the board should pass him I said that you said he, meaning Wood Badge Eagle should have passed them, meaning the boys in question on to the BOR. I also noticed you didn't touch the original question AGAIN.

Link to post
Share on other sites



I said "Did you do the right thing in stopping this scouts advancement? Yes, BUT did you do it right? NO"


I continued by saying "By not not allowing the Board of Review to; specify to the scout why he was not advancing, what requirements specifically were not met, and what needed to be done to meet the requirements, you did not follow correct advancement procedures."


I did not say he should pass him.


I said he should have sent him to the Board of Review. That is not rubber stamping that is due process.


It is not the SM's job to refuse advancement it is for the Board of Review to determine.


Bob White

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, the discourse on this post has certainly taught me one thing- this is a VERY misunderstood Policy.


At first, that made me feel better (ignorance, like misery, loves company). But now, I am concerned about


1) The amount of training adult leaders NEED to go through and


2) The content of the training being clear enough on this Policy


Like my original post said, I have been through a good deal of training, and I took that training very seriously. I believe in doing things by the book, but I am also human and slip into the "here's how we do it" mode from time to time. Always with good intentions, but straying from the way the program was designed, at least somewhat.


Our adult leaders have been discussing this all week, and we believe we have discovered where all of the error came from. I am certain that other Troops have had the same path followed. We simply adopted the same erroneous activities from SM to SM:


1) The SM was assumed to have had the authority to advance (or not) a Scout. Obviously incorrect.


2) We used the SMC as a means to assess and discuss that advancement, especially on Requirement #2, living the Scout Oath and Law. Somewhat incorrect, as the SMC is a good time to discuss these things, but placing the SMC as an advancement step that immediately preceeds the BoR is incorrect.


What is most troubling about this whole thing is that NONE of the training I went through definitively DISPELLED these two incorrect assumptions. I think that these two errors are widespread among Troops, especially ones like ours where the past leadership was highly UNTRAINED. Doing things the way they have been done must be carefully watched.


I am actively involved in adult leader training, right now as a Troop Guide on Outdoor Fundamentals (if that's what it is still called), and doing Pack Committee training in Cub Leader Specific training. I am pleased to have been invited to help staff a Wood Badge course for 2003, and I am really looking forward to that, as I learn far more as an instructor than as a student, and I learned a LOT from my Wood Badge course.


I'm going to talk with the Course Director and let him know that I am concerned that this material may need to be better covered in the syllabus, and see what he says. Bob (a different Bob) has been an excellent resource for me, and I know he'll look into this.


Thanks again for all the dialog.


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must chime in my admiration for WoodBadgeEagle for correctly (IMHO) identifying a "root cause" for a great number of problems: not simply lack of training, it's easy to beat up on adults who refuse to go to the training. The next question is, once they GET there, do they learn the program or not? Is the training turning out SMs and ASMs that can deliver the promise? I think that the existence of tremendous numbers of posts in many threads on this board that are about very basic Scouting issues like "Whose troop is this anyway?" leads me to suspect that this is not the case in many areas. And remember, the ones who are here are the ones who care enough to read and learn! (and have the time and computer resources to get here...) Imagine the rest of the crowd!


I'm going to start a new thread for my rant about the glaring omissions I saw in my training....

Link to post
Share on other sites


You raise some interesting points. I hope you won't mind me commenting on some. (as if I wouldn't. ;)


1)The amount of training adult leaders NEED to go through


The nationwide goal given every council is a 100% trained volunteer force. That is that all registered adults will go through the basic training for their position in scouting. In addition, Wood Badge leadership training is now available for all volunteers in all traditional scouting programs as well as district and council volunteers, immediately upon completing their BASIC Training.


Here is the rub.... the only people who can make that happen are the Charter organizations and the Charter Reps insisting that all unit volunteers get trained. No one else has the authority to make it happen. We can provide the opportunity but we cannot make volunteers attend.


2) The content of the training being clear enough on this Policy.


This specific policy is not discussed in Scoutmaster Leader Specific, however a video of a SMC and a BoR is shown and the Adv. Committee Policy and Procedures resource is referenced.


A tip. don't ask a trainer what the answer to a question is unless you want an opinion. If you want the BSA program answer, ask the trainer what resource the answer can be found in.


3) Everyone strays from time to time. I admire your willingness to learn and follow the program and not act out of habit or reject the BSA method because it does not suit you personally. Your scouts will have a better scouting experience because of that.


5)Unfortunately previous scout leader training courses relied on the individual skill of the trainer to follow the syllabus and deliver the actual scouting method and not their own version. The quality, and especially the content, of training varied greatly across the country. The new training program with more video and the addition of PowerPoint will help to even things out. However the responsibility is still on the adult to read the boys handbooks and the leader handbooks, something that most adults just don't do.


6)Just a side note..Outdoor Experience no longer exists. A much better program has replaced it. Introduction to Outdoor Skills starts on a Friday evening and runs to early afternoon on Sunday. It takes SM and Asst. SMs through all the outdoor skills up to First Class level.


7) Congratulations on being selected for Wood Badge staff. With your attitude I'm confident it was a good selection. I hope you enjoy Wood Badge for the 21st Century. It is different from what you took but I think you will agree it is an excellent course.


Best wishes,


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me, it is sometimes difficult to be certain what information I possess comes from my association with existing Troop operations and what came specifically from training. That's why I continue to read and ask questions, and attend as much training as I can.


And that is the shortest post I have made in this Forum (sorry for the other long ones!).


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree regarding the SM conference. In this situation, however, the requirement of Scout Spirit has not been meet. Therefore, the SM is in his right not to sign off that requirement. Since the BOR is the last requirement for rank, all the other requirements must be completed 1st.


Ed Mori


Troop 1

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's just the point we are trying to make evmori,


BoRs can take place when advancement is not happening , not just when it is. Often when, the occassion arises, a Sm "refuses" to sign a requirement all it does is create more distance between the SM and the scout or the SM and the family. A better solution is to use the checks and balances the program has in place.


Let the scout go before the BoR. Tell the board ahead of time what your concerns are and what you think needs to happen before you feel the boy has completed the requirement. let the Board interview the scout and determine if you were right, sometimes a SM persomanl feelings get in the way of his or her judgement. let the board determine if the scout is ready to advance. That's their role.


I know of know resource or instruction in the BSA program that gives the SM sole authority to sign scout spirit. Do you?


Let the board do it's job in this case. If three committee members unanimously decide he should advance, then he should. Otherwise an action plan has to be agreed upon with the scout as to specific, measurable actions that must be taken to meet the requirement.


The scoutmaster should not be made the focal point of conflicts in the troop even if he is willing to volunteer to do so. Share the leadership responsibilities with others in their role in troop operations. Advancement concerns belong to the advancement chair and the BoR.


I urge you to read page 108 under requirement 9 and see who the BSA says is the best judge of Scout Spirit.


Bob White



Attitude is everything!


I am very uncomfortable with the phrase "a SM refuses to sign". I would hope you mean that "the requirement is not ready to sign". Our role is not to accept or refuse advancement. As SM and ASM our role is to make advancement opportunities happen and to recognize the completion of requirements. If a requirement isn't signed it's not because anyone refused it. It is because the scout has yet to complete it.


Boards of review accept or deny advancement.






Link to post
Share on other sites

If Scout Spirit isn't shown during the SM conference then - to me - sending a Scout off to a BOR would be a deraliction of duty on my part as the SM. If I would sign off on the Scout Spirit requirement & the Scout truely doesn't show Scout Spirit (which is sort of what started this thread) I would be "rubber stamping" the requirement(Stay with me - I'm typing out loud). And by informing the BOR of what to look for to me is the same as OSHA calling the plant to tell what time they are coming to inspect. In my opinion, the BOR should be able to figure out if the Scout in question has Scout Spirit. And if it isn't signed off, the Scout should never get to the BOR until his attitude imporves.


Ranks aren't given. They are earned. With that said, I feel what WoodBadgeEagle did was correct. Maybe not done to the letter of the BSA law, but correct.


Ed Mori


Troop 1

Also a Wood Badge Eagle!


Ed Mori


Troop 1

Link to post
Share on other sites

I now possess (and have read all of the Boy Scout scections thoroughly) the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures manual.


Like any other written instrument, it is difficult to include the variety of information that this contains and put it into "the best" order so as not to be confusing. This manual covers the Procedures and Policies for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts (rank AND Merit Badges), Varsity Scouting and Venturing.


If you don't read ALL of the applicable sections (if you skip through looking for information that supports your viewpoint, for example), it can be downright misleading. I suggest that every Troop get multiple copies of this document, have everyone on the Troop Committee plus SM's and ASM's read it. Thoroughly. Then, the Advancement Committee, the CC, the SM and ASM's should sit down and discuss what this says and make sure that the Program and Advancement procedures that the Troop follows meet all of the requirements.


Examples of what I found misleading are as follows:


Page 23, Troop Advancement, Goals, opening sentence: "The Scoutmaster must be in charge of advancement in the Troop.". If that does not impart the concept of "authority", I don't know what does. You MUST read elsewhere in the manual to get clarification, and even that is vague. It NEVER states that a SM does NOT approve the advancement of a Scout, yet he is "in charge" of it.


Page 26, Boards of Review: "The members of the board of review should have the following in mind when they conduct the review. To make sure the Scout has done what he was supposed to for the rank. To see how good an experience the Scout is having in the unit. To encourage the Scout to progress further."


Sounds good, right? Except the VERY next sentence: "The review is not an examination; the board does not retest the candidate. Rather, the board should attempt to determine the Scout's attitude and his acceptance of Scouting's ideals."


So, I read this as saying that if a requirement has been signed off, the board does not have the right to retest (challenge) that requirement. If someone here sees that differently, let me know.


Later on, on Page 27: "The review is not an examination. The Scout has learned his skill and has been examined [WBE note: I think they meant to say 'tested', since 'examination' is not one of the Four Steps of Advancement listed on page 22]. This is a review. The Scout should be asked where he learned his skill, who taught him, and the value he gained from passing this requirement.

"The Scout reviews what he did for his rank. From this review, it can be determined whether he did what he was supposed to do."


Ahhhh... now it is becoming more clear (to me, at least). If I get the meaning here (because it is CERTAINLY not crystal clear!), then I would say the following:


A board of review must BELIEVE that the Scout indeed DID everything that he -and the signatures in his book- claims to have done to earn the rank.


Just when I thought I had it, the manual goes on a little more, Page 28: "The board should attempt to determine the Scouts ideals and goals. The board should make sure that a good standard of performance has been met. A discussion of the Scout Oath and Law is in keeping with the purpose of the review, to make sure the candidate recognizes and understands the value of Scouting in his home, unit, school and community."


That is, in my opinion doing two things-


1) Adding to the requirements for a rank. Requirement #2 says that the Scout must SHOW Scout spirit in his everyday life by living the Scout Oath and Law. It does NOT say he has to understand the value of Scouting. I am splitting hairs a little, but I think either statement taken individually means something a little different, and consistency is sorely needed in this area.


2) Creates wiggle-room. I believe (know!) that the Scout who was the focus of my original post UNDERSTOOD and even RECOGNIZED the value of Scouting and the Scout Oath and Law- my SMC proved that. The problem is that he did not convince me that he was DOING anything with this knowledge, especially in the areas of Trustworthy, Obedient or Courteous.


So, let's take my very real example instead of a ficticious one- his dad (an ASM) signs off on Requirement #2, ostensibly because he knows his son better than I do (true, but he, like every parent, has blinders on). I cannot challenge this (he has been "tested"), the board does not retest this requirement, but determines that the Scout RECOGNIZES and UNDERSTANDS the value of Scouting and the Scout Oath and Law.


POOF. He advances to Life, ill-prepared for the final 12 steps from Life to Eagle. We have done him a disservice.


Having said all that, I do feel that the appropriate advancement procedure is to have the board do the advancement (or not). I like the shared leadership and responsibility that this process provides me and the rest of the adult leaders in the Troop.


I just think that this confusion over who is supposed to take what steps when to ensure that the advancement process supports the Aims of Scouting is aggravated by (what I view) as a confusing document that is supposed to be the Gospel.


Comments? (like I needed to ask!).



Link to post
Share on other sites



I disagree with these two sentiments (from your previous post)...


...when a SM "refuses" to sign a requirement all it does is create more distance between the SM and the scout or the SM and the family...


...If three committee members unanimously decide he should advance, then he should.


1) The SM is in charge of executing the program. If he or someone in the leadership corps does something that causes a scout or his family to be unhappy, he should be the first one to respond. He should be able to explain the situation to the scout, and his family if necessary. Furthermore, the SM should evaluate a scout on Scout Spirit and decide whether or not the requirement should be signed off. He attends the outings and the meetings to monitor and advise the boys. He, more than any other, is capable and has the knowledge to determine if the scout is fulfilling that requirement.


2) Any resentment that the BOR might spare the SM, would merely be redirected to committee members. This situation would not be any healthier for the troop.


3) Letting a BOR "arbitrate" (for a lack of a better description) the matter as opposed to letting the SM's decision stand, undermines his authority as a leader.


4) In affect, you are saying that the BOR should decide if the Scout has Scout Spirit and sign him off. While there may not be any BSA literature stating that the SM is solely responsible for signing off Scout Spirit, there IS literature stating that committee members should NOT sign off the requirements.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...