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iguanita

Merit Badges must be earned in groups of 2?

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Hello all -

I am a parent of a scout who just crossed over from Arrow of Light to Boy Scouts.  I am considering signing up as a merit badge counselor for our troop, and my son is ready to start working on some of his badges.  I'm getting some conflicting guidance from our Troopmaster and the BSA website.  I'm hoping you all can help.

Our Troopmaster informed me that my son cannot work on a merit badge by himself.  He said it is required that merit badges be earned in groups of 2 or more scouts.  I understand the requirement for the buddy system and that my son must be accompanied by an parent/guardian or other scout when interacting with the badge counselor or leader.  I asked him to clarify two specific items:

1) My son attends sailing camp each summer, and the activities he performs at camp meet every requirement for the sailing merit badge.  Is it required that another boy scout earn this badge at the same time?

2) Can hikes on family vacations count towards the Hiking badge or must it be a hike with another scout?

He confirmed that in both of those scenarios, the badge must be earned in groups of 2 or more scouts and must be taught by the merit badge counselor.  I cannot find anything on the BSA website documentation to support this.  Can you help?

Thanks!

Edited by iguanita

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45 minutes ago, iguanita said:

Hello all -

I am a parent of a scout who just crossed over from Arrow of Light to Boy Scouts.  I am considering signing up as a merit badge counselor for our troop, and my son is ready to start working on some of his badges.  I'm getting some conflicting guidance from our Troopmaster and the BSA website.  I'm hoping you all can help.

Our Troopmaster informed me that my son cannot work on a merit badge by himself.  He said it is required that merit badges be earned in groups of 2 or more scouts.  I understand the requirement for the buddy system and that my son must be accompanied by an parent/guardian or other scout when interacting with the badge counselor or leader.  I asked him to clarify two specific items:

1) My son attends sailing camp each summer, and the activities he performs at camp meet every requirement for the sailing merit badge.  Is it required that another boy scout earn this badge at the same time?

2) Can hikes on family vacations count towards the Hiking badge or must it be a hike with another scout?

He confirmed that in both of those scenarios, the badge must be earned in groups of 2 or more scouts and must be taught by the merit badge counselor.  I cannot find anything on the BSA website documentation to support this.  Can you help?

Thanks!

This is completely false on both counts.  The actual rules for earning merit badges can be found in "Guide to Advancement", BSA publication 33088.  (You can find the document here:  https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf )

Read section 7 (or have your Scoutmaster read it if he insists on giving you wrong information).  He could be new at the job, untrained, etc., so give him a chance to educate himself about the scouting program.

There are YPT rules that say a counselor can not meet one-on-one with a scout....but all that means is you might need to be in the room when your scout talks to his counselor. 

By the way, NO merit badge counselor is obligated to EVER teach a class.  

 

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@iguanita, welcome to the forums!

Yes and no. Everything is more fun with a buddy anyway. But ...

1) His sailing camp might have a merit badge counselor on staff, and there just might be another scout at camp (it happens). So, he should really try to see if he can earn his MB from someone at sailing camp. That being said ... if the troop's summer camp has sailboats and he likes to sail, but the only way a scout can check out a sailboat is if he is taking the merit badge, he might just want to sign up for fun. I had one scout take Small Boat Sailing three years in a row. Never earned Eagle, but had lots of fun.

2) This depends on the Hiking MB counselor. Ideally the scout and a buddy meet with a counselor, talk about the hikes they are planning to make. Then, they implement those plans upon review with the scoutmaster. Those plans may be with the buddy, a different buddy, the scout's patrol, or the scout's family. The requirement doesn't really say who the hike should be with. (But, it is definitely more fun to do them with another scout or a patrol.) It is highly unlikely that the MB counselor will join you  on any of those hikes.

So, in both cases the instruction is with the buddy. But the actual doing of the requirements is on the scout.

Edited by qwazse

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The normal process to earn merit badges is:

  1. The scout finds a merit badge he is interested in....
  2. He asks the Scoutmaster for a "Blue Card"...
  3. The Scoutmaster *may* counsel the scout, but ultimately, any scout of any age can work on any merit badge at any time...
  4. The Scoutmaster should provide the name of an approved Counselor, however, the scout has the right to choose a different Counselor if he wishes...
  5. The Scout does the work required to satisfy the requirements ("No more, no less.")...
  6. The Scout meets with the Counselor to review and demonstrate that he has completed the requirements ("No more, no less.")...
  7. The Counselor tests the scout, initials each completed requirement, and signs the card in 2 places when he is satisfied that it is complete...
  8. The Scout returns the signed Blue Card to the Scoutmaster (or Advancement Chair, depending on your troop's process).

If that is not your troop's process, they are putting obstacles in front of the scout that should not be there. Per the "Guide to Advancement":

"Though it may not have been clearly stated in the
past, units, districts, and local councils do not have
the authority to implement a different system for
merit badge approval and documentation."

Also, the general rule of Advancement in scouting is "No more, no less."   Any invented rule violates that principle and should not be tolerated. Talk to your Committee Chair, Chartered Org Rep, or District/Council Advancement Chair.  (Or take the easier route and find a competent troop.)

 

 

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I think most leaders split hairs over this:

9 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

... The Counselor tests the scout, initials each completed requirement, and signs the card in 2 places when he is satisfied that it is complete...

How do you test that someone has hiked a hike? Or righted a capsized sailboat?

If an SM has seen too many scouts just flash a sailing certificate (or affidavit of whatever requirement) at a counselor, he's likely to insist on his pick of counselors and his way of implementing requirements. Its almost worse than the "naive SM" (like @mrkstvns describes) in that the cynical SM is trying to fix a problem in other scouts that might not even pop up in the next round of scouts.

Edited by qwazse

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5 minutes ago, qwazse said:

I think most leaders split hairs over this:

How do you test that someone has hiked a hike? Or righted a capsized sailboat?

If an SM has seen too many scouts just flash a sailing certificate (or affidavit of whatever requirement) at a counselor, he's likely to insist on his pick of counselors and his way of implementing requirements. Its almost worse than the "naive SM" (like @mrkstvns describes) in that the cynical SM is trying to fix a problem in other scouts that might not even pop up in the next round of scouts.

In most of the MBC position-specific training, it's emphasized that the published requirements will guide you.  If the requirement says "Show", or "Demonstrate" then you (the counselor) needs to see them do it.  The requirement specifies the "how to test".

In many cases, the counselor will ask the scout about it and take his word (A scout is Trustworthy.)

In either case, it is up to the COUNSELOR, not the Scoutmaster, to determine whether the scout did or did not complete the requirements as specified in the current (or applicable) requirements.  The COUNSELOR tests the scout on merit badges, not the Scoutmaster.

A Scoutmaster who thinks it's his job to 2nd guess the Counselor and the Scout is out of line. He's creating obstacles that shoiuldn't be there and ultimately, isn't the kind of "trained" leader that scouts deserve.

In the case of Small Boat Sailing, a counselor will most likely want to be at the waterfront witnessing a scout handling his boat with a buddy.  In the case of Citizenship in the Nation, the scout can simply come to me with notes and appropriate work showing he did what the requirements said to do (I promise not to ask for any more, or any less.)

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Thank you all.  This is helpful information.  Our Scoutmaster is not new to scouting, but he is new to the Scoutmaster role.  He was the pack master for our cub scout pack, and he formed the boy scout troop only last year.  I don't want to be a pain or make things difficult, but I want to understand the requirements and follow them.  My son has been excited about earning merit badges since he saw the pamphlets in the army surplus store when we bought his cub scout uniform years ago.  He can finally earn the badges, and I don't want him to be discouraged over having to do things twice or internal struggles/politics because the requirements are not clear.  

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The "Guide to Advancement" includes this...

image.png.7f6503fc58d4a40a99641753d5ba0ec2.png

Even though I'm reading the 2019 version, I think the part about the "buddy" of point 6 should be revisited since I believe that the newest YPT guidelines call for a 2nd adult to be present when an MBC meets with a Scout (although I think  in past years, a second scout was deemed sufficient to comply with the "no 1-on-1" rule).

 

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1 minute ago, iguanita said:

Thank you all.  This is helpful information.  Our Scoutmaster is not new to scouting, but he is new to the Scoutmaster role.  He was the pack master for our cub scout pack, and he formed the boy scout troop only last year.  I don't want to be a pain or make things difficult, but I want to understand the requirements and follow them.  My son has been excited about earning merit badges since he saw the pamphlets in the army surplus store when we bought his cub scout uniform years ago.  He can finally earn the badges, and I don't want him to be discouraged over having to do things twice or internal struggles/politics because the requirements are not clear.  

EXACTLY!

Young scouts are excited and motivated.  Scoutmasters need to recognize that and they need to understand that their role is to ENABLE a scout to succeed ---- not to put up obstacles to discourage the scout.

What you read in the merit badge pamphlets is what you, and your son should expect. It's what your son needs to do to earn his badges, and it's what a good adult leader will expect the scout to do....NO MORE, NO LESS.

A former Cubmaster taking on a Scoutmaster role is great --- but he definitely has a big, steep learning curve. Boy Scout advancement is nothing like Cub Scout advancement. I hope your troop's Advancement Chair is experienced at any rate, otherwise, the adult leaders should be taking their training, and seeking help from a Unit Commissioner or from experienced leaders in other nearby troops (via Roundtables, etc.)  Since you have an interest in doing things the "right way", maybe you might consider stepping up and doing one of the adult roles (or at least serving as merit badge counselor so you can see how that aspect of the scouting program works).

Good luck!

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@mrkstvns is right. It's great that you Scoutmaster is just learning "the ropes." That means he's citing the rules based on how he's read them - not how he's made it work for hundreds of scouts.

If that's the case, then the best thing your son can do for this troop is ask the SM if a counselor for each of those MB's can come visit the troop, do a presentation and explain how a scout and his buddy would go about earning those badges with him/her. If the sailing camp has a representative, they might be happy to speak to this group of scouts, teach some new knots, and pitch their camp to parents. And, most Hiking MB counselors have pictures and maps of trails where they like to hike. They might even be a part of a club who holds family events.

Rather than dickering over the rules, find ways for everyone to learn together.

(Oh, and if your son and his buddies really like sailing, start saving. A week at Seabase might be in their future.)

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The mention of "buddy" has never explicitly stated that the "buddy" must be another scout, let alone a scout also working on the MB.  It is/was for 2 deep reasons that you couldn't have a MBC meeting one-on-one with a youth.  "Buddy" could have been a parent, sibling, or another youth.  

Straight from the BSA's website, current language states: "Scout Buddy System. You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor. This person can be your parent or legal guardian, or another registered adult."

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Great advice and insight. Thank you all. Yes, I am signing up as a badge counselor for a few topics that I have experience, education, or training. I'm looking forward to sharing that knowledge with the guys and potential gals in the troop. It is a very small troop and as I mentioned, very new. Including the new scouts crossing over this year from my son's den, there are no more than 10 boys. All very new.

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I'm not surprised to hear that the Scoutmaster is new to the role.  The new 2019 Scouts BSA online training is really playing up the buddy part.   I was struck by how prevalent it now is in the materials.

I could very much see how a newly trained leader could be confused by that one.

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Now the $64000 dollar question, and maybe @RichardB can give us clarification.

Are two registered adults over 21 required for a merit badge counseling per the G2SS, or do pre-October 1, 2018 rules allowing 2 Scouts, or a Scout and a unregistered parent, meet with a MBC acceptable still?

Or do you need 2 registered adults over 21 and 2 Scouts to do a MB session now?

 

 

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