Posts Tagged ‘Advancement’


Shortly after I began my tenure as a scoutmaster at the age of 21 in 1981 I was told during a training event that an adult could serve as a merit badge counselor for up to six merit badges, but a Boy Scout could only earn two merit badges with a counselor. This was to prevent the problem of one counselor, such as a scoutmaster or parent, signing off a lot of merit badges for any one Boy Scout or their own son. After all, the merit badge program is designed for the boys to get out and work with a variety of people. It made sense to me so I never questioned it.

Until this month when the subject of merit badges came up during the roundtable meeting. Since we were talking about merit badges I asked if that rule was still in effect. By the puzzled looks on everyone’s face, including the roundtable staff, I knew I was the only one who had ever heard of this rule. That was not surprising since I think I was the only one in the room who was a Scout leader back in the 1980′s.

No one in the room could answer my answer. When the district executive came in at the end of the meeting for the announcements we asked him the same question, and got that puzzled look again. He had not heard of that rule, but he would look into it and get back to us with an answer.

I received his answer on Monday by email. According to the National office there is no limit to the number of merit badges for which a person may be a counselor. However, the counselor must be approved by the council after filling out the proper paperwork. There is no limit to the number of merit badges a Boy Scout may earn with any one counselor, but he must follow BSA guidelines when meeting with the counselor.

Well, this will change the ballgame slightly in our troop. For nearly twenty-five years I have limited the boys to earning no more then two merit badges with any one counselor, except for summer camp. Even though I am a counselor for five merit badges, I only worked on two with any Scout. Now I can help the boys earn all five badges. Plus, I think I will add two more to my list that are subjects I am quite comfortable with.

You know, sometimes I think I may need to take scoutmaster basic training all over again.

I found this story through Digg.com tonight. It is a little old, from last May, but I think it is a great story about a Boy Scout overcoming the obstacles in his way and becoming an Eagle Scout. I do not want to spoil the surprise by saying anymore, so check out the article. Then go to Digg.com and “digg it“. (I wish more Scouts and Scouters were a part of Digg and would use the network to promote Scouting more.)

The Boy Scout advancement program was quite different in the 1970′s from what it is today. Earning skill awards was a standard requirement for the first three ranks. The skill awards were a metal belt loop, similar to some of today’s Cub Scouting awards. There was twelve skill awards designed to introduce Scouts to skill areas such as camping, citizenship, first aid, and other basic Scouting skill areas.

Another change in the rank requirements was that A Scout needed to earn at least one merit badge for every rank. Yes, you read that correctly. A Scout needed to earn a merit badge for the rank of Tenderfoot, in addition to two skill awards.

Things sure have changed since then. Merit badges are no longer needed for the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class. Skill awards were discontinued in the late 1980′s. The BSA seems to change portions of the advancement program every few years to keep it relevant to today’s world, while still trying to maintain the traditional Scouting values and ideals.

I have nothing to brag about when I talk about my advancement while a Boy Scout. I was a Scout for three and a half years, but I only reached the rank of Second Class. The rank of Eagle Scout was not even in my sights. I did earn several skill awards and three merit badges, including Pioneering and Reading.

The worst thing about the advancement program when I was a Scout is that I do not remember receiving the awards. I earned them, I still have them, but I do not remember a single court of honor during my years as a Scout. I honestly could not tell you if we even held a court of honor back then. I certainly do not have any pictures from such a ceremony.

Today, I am the scoutmaster of the troop in my hometown. We now hold courts of honor four times a year, whether we have 20 merit badges and ten ranks to present, or if we only have one merit badge to hand out. We try to add some humor to the ceremony and make it fun for the Scouts and the parents while still maintaining the dignity and solemnity of the actual presentations.

As a Scoutmaster, I want the Scouts to look back and to remember their award presentations as a positive moment of their Scouting years. I hope they will not think back and have no memory of such an important Scouting event as, unfortunately, I do.