Thursday, February 2, 2012

More Advancement Woes...

Our district is holding its annual merit badge pow-wow in March and I've been handing out registration forms for the last couple weeks. One boy, a Life scout, asked me if it would they would let him sign up for three required merit badges (the pow-wow rules say a max of two). He was hoping to get three of them done so he could finish his Eagle quickly. He's 14 and wants to get things finished up. Good for him.

I told him that he should follow the rules of the pow-wow and I would help him find a counselor for any other merit badges he wanted to earn so he could work on those, too.

I logged on to our council's internet advancement site and printed off a report for this young man. My plan was to figure out which merit badges he still needed for Eagle and get him a list of counselors for all of them. Things were going well, until I found he needed more than what I thought he did. So I dug deeper.

As it turns out, he didn't have enough required merit badges recorded to have earned his Life rank.

I have run into similar problems with some of the older boys, but they have been easy fixes. With the switch to internet advancement, not everything transferred over very well. The boy gets me the date from his merit badge card, or board of review, and I enter it into the computer and everything is fine. This boy is young enough I didn't expect to have that problem. Indeed, it looked like there wasn't anything missing, except for this one possible required merit badge.

I spoke with him last night and went over his report with him and the Scoutmaster, who helped with all of his advancement until he turned 14 a couple months ago. I'm still not really clear on what happened, but I think it went something like this:

Boy worked on requirements for the merit badge (citizenship in the community) at a pow-wow.

He didn't finish all of the requirements by the end of the pow-wow.

He attended the city council or school board meeting later, as required. According to him, that's all he was missing.

He reported back to his Scoutmaster that he had gone to the meeting and finished the merit badge.

He did not get requirements signed off by a merit badge counselor. Apparently he didn't know he needed to. He thought all he had to do was report back to his Scoutmaster.

Having not received a signed blue card, the Scoutmaster didn't have it processed. The date was never entered in and the merit badge was never awarded.

The boy, having reported back to his Scoutmaster, thought he was done.

The scoutmaster is frustrated with the boy for not finishing the requirements. And he is right--to a point. It is the boy's responsibility to do the requirements and collect the signatures. The boy says he was never given a blue card. He doesn't have anything with any signatures. The boy is frustrated that he wasn't awarded the merit badge that he did all the requirements for.

I am frustrated with all of them. I'm frustrated with the Scoutmaster and the merit badge counselor who should have made sure the boy understood the process. He didn't know he needed a blue card. He didn't know he needed to get it signed by the counselor. He was probably never taught what he was supposed to do. To be fair, he was a 12-13 year old boy who may not have been paying attention when he was told, but I still think those adults should have done better helping him understand what was expected of him.

Furthermore, I am frustrated with the Scoutmaster for not checking that everything was done before he was sent off for his Life board of review. The Scoutmaster should have known that the requirements weren't all completed--that he needed one more merit badge. Why didn't he pick up on that? I suspect he wasn't keeping track all that closely. It's hard to do that when you don't come to church or troop meetings most of the time. It may have been the assistant Scoutmaster who arranged the board of review because the boy said he was ready and the assistant didn't know any better (the assistant is still fairly new and hadn't gone to basic training at that point--he has now).

The Scoutmaster's wife has been doing the advancement for the Troop (I handle the team and crew). When they thought his requirements had been completed, the Scoutmaster and his wife should have checked the official report to make sure all the merit badges were recorded (like they do for Eagle) before having the board of review convened. The committee chair, who organized the board of review should have asked for this report.

Instead, everyone assumed that someone else had taken care of what needed to be done and things got messed up. And now I get to step in and try to help get things fixed. I may also get to have a very interesting conversation with the boy's parents, who I suspect will be none too happy that things worked out this way.

Maybe I'm over-reacting.

There is still a small possibility that the boy actually did get the merit badge and it just wasn't recorded properly. There is a small possibility that he has documentation and it will be an easy fix. That's what I told him was our first step--let's double check everything and make sure we're not missing it. But I'm worried that it isn't there. Which means he didn't really earn his Life. Which could present some serious problems later if we don't get things straightened out now.

Fortunately, the boy has time. It's not like he's about to turn 18. He has time. But I am worried about what this could do to his enthusiasm. I'm also worried about what other problems have been glossed over with our Scouts.


  1. Ouch - sounds like a tough situation. It seems that you're handling it appropriately, though. Having a solid Scoutmaster is a critical step in the process - or at least someone that explains advancement processes to incoming scouts (and their parents) when joining the troop at 11.

    We have a welcome binder we give to the scout/family with places to put their paperwork and information on merit badges, etc. that explain how these things will work. It's avoided similar situations from occurring thus far.

    A Scoutmaster that isn't regularly attending troop meetings/staying plugged into things may be an issue that needs to be addressed with a change...?

  2. Our new District has come up with a saying with the new Guide to Advancement which says "Tie goes to the boy." You can't take back his Life Scout but it is of great importance to get things figured out so when his Eagle Board comes along the District member isn't left scratching their head.

    Good luck getting is cleared up. Thank goodness he isn't 18.

  3. Sounds like an unfortunate way to learn a lesson in responsibilities, both for the boy and the Scoutmaster. Yes, procedure is actually important.

    When I was in AF flight school, they taught us that the procedures in the Dash-One (basic T-37 flight manual) were "written in blood." In other words, if it's in the book, it's because someone died to get it there. Exceed the aircraft's capabilities (or your own), and you'll likely pay a hefty price. It's a sobering way to think of it, but sometimes life and death are on the line. Procedures protect.

    Fish is right, you can't punish the boy for the adults' inattention to detail, but now is the time to teach both, before the problem gets worse. I'd write up a pretty descriptive memo of what happened and what was done to correct it for when other officials have questions at his Eagle BOR.