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Hello,

My son’s troop is not meeting over the summer and he therefore wanted to complete some MBs during this time (primarily long-term type ones that are ideally suited to the summer).  He presented the blue cards to the scoutmaster during the allotted time at the beginning of the meeting and was shooed away. He then presented them at the end of the meeting and he was told no. He was barely able to get the scoutmaster to accept his *completed* first aid blue card, which he worked hard to finish at the behest of same scoutmaster, who then turned around and yelled at him/us, saying he was doing too much and to slow down. (That’s not his call—that’s my son’s decision.) Scoutmaster was completely unaware of my son’s present rank. This is the last episode in a series of exchanges I have witnessed that I find troubling. My son was very discouraged at being treated this way. None of this would be as bothersome except for the fact that the last week or so, the scoutmaster decided that only he will be signing off on blue cards from now on. ASM are not permitted to any longer, so the scouts MUST come to him. There is no way around it. I am aware that the scoutmaster is in violation of  the rules in denying my son the blue cards. I have encouraged him to visit a different troop because I do not see the situation changing. It is unfortunate because the unit is otherwise good and he likes it, but the scoutmaster has been described to me by a parent/leader in this unit as “a control freak.” I don’t think she’s wrong. I feel terrible for my son. Not sure what to do.

Edited by AScoutIsHonest
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Welcome to the forum,  @AScoutIsHonest.

I agree that he's a bit over the top. The SM can refuse to sign the blue card but wanting a scout to slow down isn't a valid reason, especially if the troop isn't doing anything fun over the summer.

How about teaching your son a different skill: have him talk to an ASM or two or even the CC. Eventually, someone needs to gently talk to the SM. Maybe your son can facilitate that.

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First warning sign that this is not a good troop is that they stop meeting for the summer. Summer is the absolute best time to do stuff because you don't have school and extracurriculars to deal with.

Second, Agree with @MattR. Talking to another adult may help.

If that doesn't work, another troop.

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1 hour ago, AScoutIsHonest said:

This is the last episode in a series of exchanges I have witnessed that I find troubling.

BIG NOTE before the discussion:  Your Scout may work on any merit badge he wants, at any time.  He does not need a blue card from a unit leader to work on a merit badge.  (However, some requirements may need counselor approval before starting.) He needs the blue card to help make the connection to a merit badge counselor in order to sign off on his work (or perhaps help him navigate his way through some particularly difficult requirement.)  So, tell your Scout to begin working on any and all merit badges he wants, RIGHT NOW!  It helps him to keep track of his work and progress...especially if you are going down the road of selecting a new Troop after all this.  (I neither encourage nor discourage the use of "workbooks" [see http://usscouts.org/mb/worksheets/list.asp ], but if your Scout uses one, he must make sure the requirements are current by comparing it to requirements listed at https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/advancement-and-awards/merit-badges/ )

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

My first question would be, were you actually present and/or did you witness and hear these interactions between your Scout and the SM?  If not, then please feel free to call the Scoutmaster to clarify what happened, and when your Scout can meet with him to sign the blue cards.  Note, the SM does not "approve"  a Scout to take a MB.  The blue card exchange  1. gives the SM an opportunity to mentor your Scout, and 2.  creates a demand signal for the introduction of a MB Counselor.  If your Scout already has MB Counselors "selected" that is fine.  Also note the verbiage on the card where a Unit Leader signs " I have discussed this merit badge with this Scout and recommended at least one merit badge counselor."

If yes (you witnessed/heard), then proceed to the next person, the Committee Chair.  You can do this in two ways.  1.  If you wish for your Scout to help navigate through the situation, he can request a Board of Review.  A BoR is not just for Scout advancement.  It also provides a feedback loop for Troop health and Scoutmaster Corps performance through the parents and Committee who sit on a BoR.   Or, 2.  if you believe the situation has already deteriorated to a point (and from your post, if all is true, it has...) where you do not wish your Scout to pursue this, then please call the Committee Chair directly to discuss the situation. 

If the Committee Chair does not address this promptly, then it is time to seek another Troop.

For clarity's sake, would you also please share the following?

1.  How many Scouts are in the Troop?  (Helps provide insight into the "control freak" claim.  If your Troop has 10 Scouts, then SM signing all is no biggie.  If your Troop has 30, it is an indicator.)

2.  How was this SM's decision exclusively to sign all blue cards put out.  Verbally?  Email or written anywhere?  If verbally, did you hear it?  Perhaps there was a miscommunication?  A decision like this should be put in writing to all the Troop, in case there were members not present...

3.  How many blue cards are we talking about? If less than five or so, this should not be a big deal.  If your Scout brought me 20 blue cards, I'd ask him to work out a time when we could sit down together and go through these and have a discussion.  I would never say "No" to signing, but I'd like to prioritize, because the person signing must provide info on counselors, and this takes some time.  (I personally like to contact MB counselors first, as a courtesy,  to see if they have the availability.  Not required, but does help smooth the process.)  I'd like to ask your Scout about his priorities, and then help work through the prioritized list.  Also, if your Scout has a lot of "open" blue cards, I'd like to have a chat with him about setting priorities and finishing what he starts.  I might negotiate with him.  Which are the top five you want to work on? When do you want to finish them?  (I did have a Scout ask for 14 blue cards at once.  I did not say "No", but I did say "Not yet..."  We had a discussion about MB Counselors and respecting their time also.  The Scout chose five to work on now, and when completed, kept on working on his list.  He learned the process goes much faster when you complete as much work as you can before initiating the blue card process.  This also reduces the amount of "misfires" where a Scout starts but never finishes a badge with the counselor.)

4.  Ask your Scout if any other Scouts are in a similar situation.  If yes, then maybe discuss with some other parents to find a way ahead.

5.  Is the Troop going to Summer Camp?  If not, then do you know about "Provisional Troops"?

That's enough "peeling back the onion" for now... 

 

 

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3 hours ago, MattR said:

Welcome to the forum,  @AScoutIsHonest.

I agree that he's a bit over the top. The SM can refuse to sign the blue card but wanting a scout to slow down isn't a valid reason, especially if the troop isn't doing anything fun over the summer.

How about teaching your son a different skill: have him talk to an ASM or two or even the CC. Eventually, someone needs to gently talk to the SM. Maybe your son can facilitate that.

False,  SM cannot refuse a blue card. Page 70 of the GTA makes it very clear that the decision to pursue the MB is the Scouts decision. The Scout has approached the SM about the MB which is the only requirement to get the blue card from the SM.

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4 minutes ago, Tron said:

False,  SM cannot refuse a blue card. Page 70 of the GTA makes it very clear that the decision to pursue the MB is the Scouts decision. The Scout has approached the SM about the MB which is the only requirement to get the blue card from the SM.

Lol, well, he did, so he can.  Agree that he is probably wrong to do so, but we do not have all the deets on this one.

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@MattRI just got off a lengthy phone call with an adult from the troop (long-time scouter) and she confirmed that ASMs are barely allowed. As of last week or so, only the SM can sign blue cards, which for a troop of around 40, seems impractical.  We have a few but they don’t do anything, honestly. The woman with whom I spoke, her husband is one and she totally agrees. 

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We've had many discussions around this subject and there are a lot of opinions to the Scoutmaster's role in the process. I personally believe that the SM should verify the MB Counselor and move on. It was a little easier for me because our council used white cards that only require one SM signature at the beginning of the scout's quest. The two signatures on the Blue Cards don't make sense to me, and set the SM's state of mind of being more involved. But, our district SM's had to be corrected in training that the signature is required at the beginning, not the end of the scout's required tasks.

Personally I believe scouts learn more skills in the administrative requirements of the badge and contacting the councilor than any other part of the advancement program.

Barry

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Just now, Eagledad said:

The two signatures on the Blue Cards don't make sense to me, and set the SM's state of mind of being more involved. But, our district SM's had to be corrected in training that the signature is required at the beginning, not the end of the scout's required tasks.

The post-MB signature process is important.  A unit leader should ask these questions:

1.  How'd it go?  Did you enjoy this MB?  What did you like about it?  What did you dislike about it?  Then find out what the Scout wants to work on next.  I often used the post-MB session to help the Scout pick the next MB, and then start the next blue card right then and there.

2.  Did you like working with this MB Counselor?  Did you review all the requirements with the MBC?  Did you complete all the requirements with the MBC?  (If the answer is "No", and it occasionally is, you work with the Scout to find a way to complete the badge.  This is one of the hardest things to do, and it is impossible to intercept them all.)  Did the MBC have you complete all the requirements as stated?  Did the MBC require you to complete anything extra that was not written in the requirements?

3.  Would you work with this MBC again?  Do you recommend other Scouts in our Troop go to this MBC?

4.  Did you thank the MBC?  When the Scout has done this, I also send a brief email or text to the MBC thanking them for their support.  No, it isn't required, but a Scout is Courteous, and when someone has given their time to help you, you darned well better thank them.  If I had to make a 13th Point of the Scout Law it would be A Scout is Grateful!

Spend a bit more time with the Scout, and you've done a Scoutmaster Conference!  Sign two things off!

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@InquisitiveScouter
 

1.  How many Scouts are in the Troop? 
There are about 40.

2.  How was this SM's decision exclusively to sign all blue cards put out. 

Apparently he verbalized this privately to an ASM. This ASM then communicated the information to me via text. It was not a public  announcement that I am aware of.  

3.  How many blue cards are we talking about?

He needed to turn in one completed card (first aid, which he busted his butt to do bc the SM said he HAD to do it at camp, but my son did not WANT to do that one at camp). He had inadvertently forgotten to have two blue cards signed (he had filled them out) for two several-month electives. Neither are difficult and relate primarily to daily chores he already does. He also requested two Eagle three-month for the summer (PM/FL), which again wouldn’t change his life much (normal chores and some written work). Two minor electives were the last. (My daughter did these recently and they took about a week each. My oldest, who’s 18, also did these so I’m familiar.) That’s six, but it’s for the whole summer because they aren’t meeting. They’re longitudinal, so keeping track on a daily chart is really the hardest part of the four. It isn’t like he was asking for scuba, wilderness survival, lifesaving, farm mechanics, and emergency prep!!! Haha! Oh, and we already have MB counselors for all.  

4.  Ask your Scout if any other Scouts are in a similar situation.  If yes, then maybe discuss with some other parents to find a way ahead.

My kid is a little socially clueless and bc an ASM runs his patrol (a younger scout patrol), he doesn’t have much chance for those kinds of questions. My impression, especially after the lengthy phone discussion I just had with another scout(er) parent from this troop is that most aren’t too ambitious. I don’t really get why anyone would discourage a scout.

5.  Is the Troop going to Summer Camp?  If not, then do you know about "Provisional Troops"?

Yes they are and yes I am very familiar. My oldest has gone prov to camp many times, including to high adventure bases. Thanks for the suggestion!

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PS: I found last night’s interaction so troubling, and I never want for my child to feel intimidated by the prospect of speaking with his SM. I created a document which lists some of the infractions/concerns I have at present. 

  1. Submission of MB worksheets in lieu of working with counselor or any discussion (SM claimS he does 70-100 MBs. We refuse to do it this way.)

  2. Sometimes dictating to scouts which MBs they should take at camp

  3. Telling a scout he must work only with MB counselors in his council (We live on the edge of two councils and I have children in both.)

  4. Claiming that swimming is a prerequisite for kayaking (etc.) (Passing erroneous information)

  5. Refusal to sign blue cards (didn’t even look at them or consider what they were)

  6. Device/video game use without restriction or sufficient supervision at lock-ins (ie “there has never been a problem”—I had conversation with ASM about this yesterday and apparently nothing will change)

  7. “Slow down” as rationale for impeding scout progress and goals

  8. Yelling at/shooing away/speaking harshly to a scout and a parent

  9. Lack of awareness of scout rank

  10. Insufficient scout (youth) leadership at meetings (meetings run by adults)

  11. SM runs committee mtgs, disallows SPL in committee mtgs

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