Advancement Changes

The more things change the more they stay the same… I am referring to the new Advancement guide of the BSA.  You can download now at the or here is a direct link GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT 2011.  In it you will find much of the same policies and practices that have governed the advancement process for years.  You will also find new merit badges and some new twists to some of the requirements.  I encourage everyone to download a copy and become familiar with the changes and renew your understanding of how advancement is supposed to work within the Boy Scouts of America.
The reason that I am bringing this up now is because of a discussion that I have been participating in on another “Outdoors” type forum.
I try not to get into debates on forums, I really do not think that forums provide an atmosphere that allows both parties to articulate their sides, concerns, and evidence on any given subject.  And keeping with that, I refused to get into a debate about advancement policies and changes on the forum.  I did however, give an opinion and yes try to explain how I understand the policy or changes.
Here is specifically what I am referring to, the comment made by a poster to the forum:
It has lots of changes.  It looks like BSA is adopting a “No Scout left behind” attitude.
For example:
Scouts can’t fail Scoutmaster conferences.
The Scoutmaster Conference is not the last thing done before a BOR.

“ Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009.
Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say he must “pass” a
conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it
be the last step before the board of review. This is an important consideration for Scouts on a tight schedule to meet the requirements before age 18. Last-minute work can sometimes make it impossible to fi t the conference in before then, so scheduling it earlier can avoid unnecessary extension requests. “

Ok.  The writer starts by stating that the BSA is “Adopting a ‘No Scout left behind’ attitude”.  I did not see that in the advancement guide.  There is no policy that states that No Scout shall be left behind or not advanced.  This perception that the BSA wants to hand out Eagle Scout badges is false and comes from Scout leaders that see this PRACTICE going on in units around them.  They want to swing it so hard the other way, that they feel the BSA does not support them in its policy changes.  I see this in our area too.  The best course of action would be to look at the policy and do what the BSA actually says.
The statement ( states that “a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say he must “pass” a conference.”  This is nothing new.  The Scoutmaster Conference has not been a retest in a long time.  Further more the language has also said “participate” for some time also.
There was a lot of grief given to the statement “While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that itbe the last step before the board of review.”  That also is true and has been for some time.  It does not make sense to hold the Scoutmaster Conference prior to completion of the requirements, but I can see circumstances in which the Scout may ask for a Conference prior to completion of all the requirements.  Circumstances like participating at Summer Camp where the remainder of the requirements will be completed before the end of the week, or in the case of a young man who needs to have his Scoutmaster Conference before his 18th birthday in order to earn that rank.  Yes folks.  As long as the Scoutmaster Conference has been completed before the 18th birthday, a Scout can have his Eagle BOR after the birthday.
Still, I think the advancement guide is clear in its policies and still I do not see how the BSA is trying to make it any more easier or a hand out.
Most of the issues in the discussion could be dealt with if Scoutmasters just did their jobs.  Scoutmaster Conferences should never be a retest.. why would it need to be?  The Scout should be tested along the way as he completes each requirement.  A Scout is Trustworthy and if signatures are delegated, the Scoutmaster should trust that the task, skill, or other requirement was completed.  If the Scout is having maturity issues, leadership challenges, skill development failures.. then these should all be worked with as they happen.. waiting for the Scoutmaster Conference is doing a disservice to the Scout and the process.
And yet again, I bring it all back to Adult leaders that do the wrong thing.  The right thing is not to make things up, rather do the program as the Boy Scouts of America outlines.  Doing this insures and the advancement process is fair for everyone.
Get a copy of the advancement guide and remember to do what is right.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. SM conferences Should be done on an as needed basis, it need not be anything formal or scheduled, but sometimes a simple interaction with the scout, showing him a better way to do something, congratulating him with work accomplished at school, making sure the next meeting is planned, etc are all conferences of sorts. I see an SM conference as a way to require the leaders to do what we should be doing to mentor, train and motivate our scouts


  2. I see this a lot with leaders in the program that want to make the program more difficult than it is (for leaders and scouts alike!) It is amazes me how we lose focus on what is important. The program has always been that “game with a purpose” with the purpose being that we work hard to help young men become good, responsible, self-sufficient, and confident men who then become leaders in their homes and communities. That is the big picture. These young men are placed in a controlled environment where they are free fail or flourish and molded by other boys who have gone through the process and can exert leadership. EDGE method in practice. We should not argue over these small issues (not saying the author is) but I see what he is talking about all the time. We need to focus on helping these young men to stay the course and not abandon the program by providing that “game” with purpose and remembering that this is not a job and it was suppose to be an adventure! Let’s get out there and make memories with our boys! -End Soapbox- lol


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