Ask the Expert: The rapid-fire FAQs edition

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?So far, Ask the Expert posts have offered one often-lengthy answer to one complicated Scouting question. You can read past posts here. Perhaps a question you have is answered there.

But now it’s time for the lightning round.

Here’s a collection of questions I’ve received along with the short answer: 

blue cards

Question from Ramona: Are blue cards now required?

Answer: They are still required, yes. A Scout should have one before beginning merit badge work.

Source: Guide to Advancement, 

Family Ties

Question from Dale: We have a practice of trying to avoid having Scouts work with their merit badge-approved dad. Is that OK?

Answer: You can suggest that a Scout diversify his merit badge counselor selection, but as long as Mom or Dad is a registered merit badge counselor, he or she can teach the merit badge to his or her son.

Source: Guide to Advancement,


Question from Susan: I am wondering if it is acceptable that a Scout have several merit badges completed with the same counselor. And if so, how many merit badges with the same counselor becomes “too many”?

Answer: There is no limit on the number of merit badges a youth may earn from one counselor. But, the Advancement Team suggests Scouts “broaden their horizons.” So use your judgment about when to suggest a Scout find someone new.

Source: Guide to Advancement,

Eagle position of responsibility

Question from Jerry: Life and Star have the following requirement: “While a First Class/Star Scout, serve actively in your unit for 6 months in one or more of the positions of responsibility listed in Requirement 5 for Star Scout (or carry out a unit leader-assigned leadership project to help your unit.)” Eagle does not allow the “leader-assigned leadership project” under the serve actively in an position requirement. Why?

Answer: The Eagle Scout rank is considered so important that there can be no alternative to showing the ability to lead or to accept responsibility in a position with your unit.

Source: BSA Advancement Team official response

Flora and Fauna

Question from Joe: There has been much debate in our troop in regards to requirements “Second Class Requirement 5: “Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of wild animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks) found in your community.” & First Class Requirement 6: “Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of native plants found in your community.”  Some leaders in our troop want very specific “proof.” What is the BSA policy for this requirement?

Answer: There’s no official BSA policy, but I would think a written description, pencil sketch, or photo would suffice.

eagle project permanency

Question from Brian: For Eagle projects is there anything that requires it to have some kind of permanency? Like if a blood drive is done, does there need to be a plaque or something put up at the location?

Answer: There is no such requirement. But this is an important reminder that blood drives and similar projects shouldn’t be rejected outright because they don’t have something permanent to leave behind.

Source: on the Eagle Scout rank BSA page

Eagle Scout age requirement

Question from Kimberly: Why do Scouts have to complete their Eagle requirements by their 18th birthday rather than by the time they graduate from high school?

Answer: At the age of 18, in the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout programs, a young man is considered an adult, and thus no longer eligible to earn a youth member’s rank. At that age he may register as an assistant Scoutmaster, and assist in providing adult-level supervision at meetings and on outings.

Source: BSA Advancement Team official response

Sneak a Peek

Question from Linda: I’m a counselor for Cooking MB. Can I see the new, revised requirements so I can prepare?

Answer: The BSA’s Innovation Team typically doesn’t release merit badge requirements early, I’m told. If that changes for a specific badge, I’ll blog about it!

Source: BSA Innovation Team official response

Ask the Expert your question

I can’t find an answer to every question, but I’m taking a select few to our BSA experts to provide some insight. Right now I’m focusing on questions that are asked frequently or would apply to a large group of Scouts or Scouters.

If you have an Ask the Expert question, email it to me.

31 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: The rapid-fire FAQs edition

  1. Because of the new Boy Scout policy that takes place in January 2014, are we now going to mandate one boy per tent? What about summer camp and boys needing to take showers in the youth showers? How is that going to be monitored. My sons have made it pretty clear they do not want to tent or shower with boys who are gay. Are we now going to ask young men to identify themselfs, Gay or Non-Gay…How is that going to work….

    • use the no contact rule, personal privacy, and inappropriate behavior rules.. go look what the bible says in Leviticus.. use those simple rules as your guides… talking about subjects can encourage subjects… this is all very unnecessary except to be politically correct.. it was all fine for the past 100 years, what changed? the whitehouse.

    • In the past the youth picked who they would buddy up with and who they would tent with. This shouldn’t change. In the past the only complaint I ever heard were some boys smelled bad or never washed there clothes at long term summer camp. Maybe a PL could solve this problem.

  2. It’s darkly humorous how many people don’t have the wherewithal to consult the Guide to Advancement, Guide to Safe Scouting, and Uniform & Insignia Guide–all of which are available *free* online–for their questions; however, it is equally “funny” how hard it is to navigate to find useful information. It’s nice of the Experts to entertain even the most mundane questions.

  3. Rod,
    While I am not an official source, I have been in so many discussions on this and the general opinion is that while the YPT is supposedly being revisited (although most adults don’t really understand why) as long as a scout is following the YPT there is no need for one man tenting and it certainly won’t be mandated by National.

    Showers cannot be monitored by adults so that point is mute. If scouts do not wish to tent or shower with scouts who have come forward that is their right and will need to be handled on a case by case basis. No one can be made to tent or shower or take a merit badge or walk down the path with a scout they don’t want to.

    And there can be absolutely NOT ask any youth if they are gay. This is such a violation of privacy!! It was not allowed before the standard change and certainly will not be allowed now.

    Like I said I am certainly not an official source and there will be tons of conjecture until the BSA puts out the implementation plan.

    • A fellow scouter said last night. This is a stepping stone for the next “battle”. When this great organization fell to the real issue MONEY. SOME of the BIG donors, were threatening on pulling their annual donations if they change didn’t happen. The gays didn’t win, the Scouting program lost.

  4. There is no need to change tenting, buddy system, or showering procedures. I honestly don’t understand why this is an issue, scouting is not a program that involves sex or dating, even in the co-ed version called Venturing. If your boys don’t want to be in the same tent as someone with different preferences they’re going to be spending a lot of time alone in their life. There were a couple scouts in my troop that are now openly gay, even when they weren’t they didn’t make a habit of peaking. They weren’t trying to touch anyone, they were just being scouts. Scouting is a great program, but if you’re too closed minded to accept that others have their differences I suggest you find a different one.

    • The irony of your “close minded” comment in a post decrying the beliefs of others is astounding.

      • Matthew,
        While I agree that there really don’t need to be an “official” changes to YPT, I disagree that anyone will spend a lot of time alone if they feel uncomfortable tenting or showering with openly gay scouts.

        They need to be shown respect for their comfort level. If they are treated with respect maybe we can turn this into a teachable moment.

        Respect is going to be the key to everything.

  5. To the BSA Advancement Team: Please stop making “improvements” to advancement. The merit badge process was fine; why change it? The prior Eagle project workbook worked for years; why “fix” it? The Cub Scout Oath existed for 75+ years; why make one oath for all programs now? As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Some things in life — and in Scouting — should be difficult to achieve. Please stop simplifying things so those that put forth minimal effort can be recognized for something that will, eventually, become meaningless. “I earned this award” is becoming quickly becoming “they just gave me this for showing up.”

  6. People like Matt want to have the right, positive attitude about homosexuality – and so do I. The elephant in the room is this. If homosexual boys are allowed to tent together or with straight boys, then why can’t boys and girls tent together. This is an outrageous double standard and I feel that girls should have all the trust and rights afforded to anyone else – and then some. Are you saying that gay boys are more moral and trustworthy than girls? Are you saying that homosexuality is more acceptable than heterosexuality?

    There are a lot more girls in this world that would like to be Scouting than there are homosexual boys, and yet we ignore them and their right to enjoy Scouting as they do in other countries. We are going in the right direction, but we’re about as organized as herding cats.

    • This is why I believed in the ‘don’t tell’ years. this new change will, for the first 5 or years, have all sorts of problems. As the ‘old guard’ leaves scouting so will the attitude. I feel the worst thing that can happen is “pushing the issue” down peoples throats. I work and earn a living with a gay. But when I leave work that’s as far as it goes. When they have parades, etc. that’s pushing it sown our throats. Why do the gays have to “come out”. Do I have to come out and say “I’M HETEROSEXUAL”? Let’s just let time play out.

      • As to why don’t they don’t allow girls in scouting, other than Venturing. They do. It’s called ‘GIRL SCOUTS”.

  7. JR you are addressing two different issues here and one has nothing to do with the other.

    The reason that the BSA separates boys and girls is basic anatomy. My daughter doesn’t want to share a tent with a boy. She doesn’t want to have to hide when changing clothes or worry that her personal toiletries are an issue. It has nothing to do with trust.

    Sex and Boy Scouts have nothing to do with each other. So let’s say that two boys share a tent and there is hanky panky……….. then they are asked to leave……. same as if we find two of our Ventureres out for a midnight stroll that became more…..

    So there is no double standard because the basis of keeping the sexes apart has nothing to do with the fact that they may have sex……….

    And is inquiring about a person’s sexual preference really a “right and positive attitude?”

    As far as girls enjoying Scouting. I am probably one of the few women who is glad that the program is for boys only until Venturing………

    • Your daughter would feel uncomfortable sharing a tent, changing clothes or using the bathroom around boys. Why should we ignore the similar discomfort of hetero Scouts doing the same things in the presence of an openly gay male Scout? Yes, she has different anatomy, but beyond simple youth curiosity her discomfort is also rooted in the sexual implications of a male looking at her, even absent any actions or words that could escalate the situation. If a Scout is openly gay, he has adopted a public position that he is sexually attracted/aroused by members of the opposite sex. Why shouldn’t hetero male Scouts feel uncomfortable in the same situations that make your daughter feel the same way? There is no “sex” involved in boys looking at your disrobed daughter, so according to your position above she should have no issues with sharing a tent, changing, etc. around boys, right?

      • Yes Steve what you say may be true for some. My daughter when asked actually gave it a lot of thought and said she might be uncomfortable around a girl who has a SSA but wouldn’t necessarily NOT share a tent.

        Again, we sort of are talking about different things. I am not advocating that youth who are uncomfortable around other youth (for ANY reason) should be made to tent, or shower, or whatever we are discussing.

        What I am addressing is my opinion as to why YPT does not represent a double standard just because boys and girls cannot tent together. It is not because we don’t trust them not to have sex. It is because in our society is just isn’t the “norm”.

        Now some would say the norm has changed. I disagree. We still trust our youth not to have sex in the tents…….. and boys tenting with boys doesn’t change anything because they have the same anatomy…………

        AND this illustrates what I mean by scouts being uncomfortable with other scouts needs to be handled on a case by case, unit by unit basis and NO changes needed to YPT.

        • The YP policy is a preventative policy. Following it prevents incidents. You suggest a reactionary policy…if something happens kick them out. Boys and girls are not allowed in the same tent as a prevention of incident.

          If I knowingly put a gay boy in a tent with someone gay then I am liable for any issues that may occur. If I knowing put a gay boy in a tent with a strait boy and something happens (either sexually or bullying) then I knowingly allowed the situation to occur that enabled the action. If I was taken to court by the parents of either boy I guarantee I would be found liable.

          We are in the market for new tents but are on hold till a directive comes from above. We sleep 2/tent now.Either we go to three or 1. Either prevents any chance of bullying or sexual actions at night.

        • Mike has brought up an issue that has been at several of our district committee meetings. What are the legal ramifications, if an “event” happens between boys, whether gay, straight, or gay and straight. Evn with Boy/Girl. You’re in the out doors and they “sneak off”. BAM, the parents come after the leader. How will the BSA support the leader?

        • I guess that is a legitimate question with many potential answers. Let’s back up a few months ago before the vote and answer this. If you have a Venture Crew (and we have a large one) “romances” are likely. Now following YPT of course none of the opposite sex tent together, but there is ample opportunity for them to “sneak away” and even the more diligent leadership may get fooled.
          How is the BSA going to back the leadership? Good question. My guess is that this would be taken on a case by case basis and if the leadership can prove that due diligence was taken regarding YPT and these two made a real effort to get away, maybe by lying or what have you then I say the leadership can be held pretty blameless.

          Now fast forward to the changed membership standards and the same situation occurs between two boys I have to believe that diligent leaders will not be held accountable.

          As far as two youth with a SSA and tenting together. I guess it is a matter of trust and if the parents know they are tenting together can they come after the leadership?

          I had a leader ask me what if a boy with a SSA and a straight boy are tent partners and if the straight boy doesn’t have an issue with it, should we tell the parents anyway?

          While I agree that we are facing some potentially complicated times, and I have to believe that YPT is probably going to be revisited (although I maintain it isn’t necessary). I also firmly believe that if current YPT is followed all of our youth and leaders will continue to be safe.

          It was said that my stance as it is, is using YPT as a reactionary response and not a proactive one.

          I disagree because we are using it now the same way it is to be used going forward.

          I am willing to listen, with respect all sides of this issue and am always more than willing to be convinced I need to look at things differently. It’s how we all learn.

  8. First of all, I am proud to be part of that 36% or 38 % . It would be prudent that we just accept the new policy and don’t make a big issue out of it. What ticks alot of us off is the way the gay community ‘pushes’ the issue with such things as “Coming Out” and the “GAY PARADE”. Heck, we don’t have a a Heterosexual Parade. I’m proud to be HETEROSEXUAL but I didn’t stand on the corner or go on TV to tell the world.. Another words just ‘SHUT UP’ and we’ll all get along.

    • I wish/hope that the American Heritage boys hurry up and form so all these folks can leave the rest of us alone.

  9. Hey Brian: After the disrespectfullness of the scouts and leaders at this gay pride parade (Hopefully there was no one naked and being led on chains as in the New York Parade), what will be the punishment? How do we CO’s deal with this if even the local leaders spit on the organization? THis has become a joke and all in a short time and all because of our current leaders.

    • I guess we the adults must point out the obvious, that by being in a GAY Parade we as Scouts are indorsing this immoral behavior. AND Scouts don’t support any political point of view. And the consequences should be first to reaffirm what the wrong action displayed by the Scout and then kick out the offender the second time something similar occurs. Scouts aren’t political.

  10. Getting back on track, I appreciated the responses to the merit badge questions. Our troop has guidelines (some would call them rules) about how many merit badges one should be a councilor for (we set the limit at seven) or whether a parent can be an MC for their son (yes, but in order to prevent the appearance of favoritism, it is recommended that the MC try to have at least two scouts who are working on the merit badge and also that the MC inform the troop committee that he or she is going to be doing this.) It’s nice to know that we have more latitude as these are not iron-clad rules.
    On the other hand, we have encountered scouts that have been denied merit badges because their scoutmasters didn’t feel that they completed the requirements when they attended a Merit Badge
    Workshop. Finding out that this doesn’t fly will help in the long run.

    • In my opinion, the troop committee should make the decision about MB counselors and merit badge workshops. The MB program is for the youth to meet experts in the field, by this I mean someone that has more knowledge than the merit badge book. Someones Dad has limited experience. But the main idea is for the youth to meet and speak with adults, this is sometimes harder for the youth than actually passing a merit badge.

  11. We wish to be removed from the e-mail list. Our decision is due to BSA’s recent decision to change the focus and outlook of BSA.

    • Thad and Cathy –

      1) This isn’t an e-mail list. It’s a web page. There’s nothing to be removed from; just don’t come back to this page.

      2) Pretty sure the focus of the BSA hasn’t changed.

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