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Thou Shalt Not Change Requirements

Although not written on tablets of stone, no part of the Scouting program is followed more closely than this guideline. Insuring that all Scouts take the same tests, meet the same requirements, earn the same merit badges to achieve a rank is the job of all Scouters. As Advancement Chairmen, Unit leaders or adults it is our responsibility to make sure all youth follow these guidelines.

In some sports and some programs “doing your best” is enough to pass a requirement. Not so in Boy Scouts. If the requirement says, “Do two of the following…,” a Scout must “do” two of the following. If the requirement says, “Write,” the Scout must “write.” If the requirement says, “Present,” then the Scout and counselor can agree on how he will present the information. The Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures manual states, “No council, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.”

Summer camps often cause the most problems. At one camp my boys came back from Swimming Merit Badge excited that they only had to inflate their shirts- not their pants. The requirement is written the way it is so that boys experience inflating their pants in a controlled situation. If they get the sequence wrong and try to take off their pants without removing their shoes, they may get in a situation that they can not resolve. In a pool there is help. In a lake there is no second chance.

In Rifle Shooting a requirement is to shoot five groups of 3 shots that can be covered by a quarter. The Counselor was having the Scouts shoot three groups of 3. His logic was that if a Scout could shoot three groups of 3, he could shoot five groups of 3- it was only a matter of time. In that time he could teach shooting and gun safety to several additional Scouts. While the intent is good, the requirement can not be changed by an individual.

A Coin Collecting Counselor might think it would be nice for a Scout to collect one of each coin for the year he was born. The Counselor can suggest the concept, but he can not make it a requirement for getting the merit badge.

A Committee Chairman might feel that parts of the Swimming Merit Badge would be impossible for a Scout to complete. He may want to change or eliminate the requirement, but he can not.

The Boy Scout organization understands there are physical and medical reasons why some Scouts can not complete some requirements. There are forms and a process to follow to develop alternate requirements that are as difficult as the required activities but are within the Scouts ability to accomplish. The time to begin the process is as soon as the difficulty is determined. The process takes time. Begin as early as possible.

To test your knowledge of merit badge counselors, check out the quiz in the Games and Quizzes section.

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